March 2021 Archives

Final Memorandum, COVID-19 Impacts on NASA's Major Programs and Projects (IG-21-016; A-20-010-00), NASA OIG

"A top-line estimate of the cost for these delays and challenges across NASA is estimated to be nearly $3 billion. However, NASA will not be able to quantify the complete impact of the pandemic on its programs and projects until after the COVID-19 emergency has subsided. This memorandum presents a snapshot of the reported estimated impacts to 30 of the Agency's major programs and projects (defined as those with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million) at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2020."

Keith's note: OK so ... NASA Legislative Affairs is paying attention ;-)

Biden: "They ask what do we get out of it? Well, they said the same thing when we first went into space. They said the same thing. Pushing the frontiers lead to big benefits back home. When NASA created Apollo's digital flight system, unheard of at the time, and lead to technology that helps us today to drive our cars and fly airplanes. When NASA invented ways to keep food safer after hours - and used for decades to keep food safe in supermarkets. At leas 2,000 products and services and development as a regard - as a result of American exploration. GPS, computer chiips allowing us to see and talk to one another."

FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan

"The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race."

Keith's note: During the daily White House press briefing today space made the news again:

Kristin Fisher (Fox): "You know the Biden administration - they just announced its intention to retain the National Space Council - and this is on top of the White House voicing its support for the Space Force and NASA's Artemis program. I mean - these are three programs or policies that President Trump and the Trump administration put in place. So - would it be fair to say that space - and space policy - is one of the few areas where President Biden actually agrees with his predecessor?""

Jen Psaki: "I think that sounds accurate to me. Look - I think the President believes that the National Space Council provides an opportunity to generate national space policy strategies, synchronize on America's space activities at a time of unprecedented activity. It's also an opportunity to generate by America's own activities in space. So - it's certainly a program -- or a council - I should say -- he is excited to keep in place and one - I think it's fair to say - he agrees with the past administration's maintaining the program."

- Team Biden Decides To Keep The National Space Council, earlier post
- National Space Council UAG Wants You To Think They Did Something Important, earlier post

Keith's note: By now you must be bored with my daily critique of how NASA organizes and presents itself to the public, policy makers, news media, and the rest of the world - especially when it comes to education. (see Fixing Education And Outreach At NASA. Part 1: STEM Engagement Office) To virtually everyone, everywhere, NASA.gov online resources are how people learn what NASA does - and where they go to find out what it can do for them. As such you'd expect that the agency would spend the resources needed to put forth the best online face. Guess again. (see NASA's Web Presence is An Amazing Mess).

As you may know the Trump Administration tried to defund the NASA Education Office. But Congress thwarted that. But in a compromise to sooth some political issues they changed the name to the "NASA STEM Engagement Office". While the name is not exactly obvious, whatever you call NASA's main education organization should be the focal point for the agency's education efforts - STEM and otherwise.

That said, the NASA STEM Engagement Office only links to some of the agency's ongoing educational activities and many of the field centers, directorates, missions, and other programs with overt educational interests and content, do not bother to link back to the NASA STEM Engagement Office. And if they do link back they do so indirectly and rely on a web visitor to guess where the link is. And in the case of NASA JPL, well, they simply ignore NASA HQ. But that is another story.

Now there is talk of a massive infrastructure bill to be prosed by the White House which seeks to revitalize things all throughout the government and the economy. Maybe NASA can grab some of that funding and focus it on its education and outreach problems - and not on yet another shiny office building for SES and GS-15 employees.

Here's my latest flyby analysis of how badly NASA coordinates its education activities online. It is hard to see more than a superficial semblance of an agency-wide coherent approach to presenting and integrating education and outreach. But you already knew that, right?

Woman In Motion, Star Trek And The Remaking Of NASA - A Review, SpaceRef

"You know that you have been involved with something beyond living memory when you find yourself telling stories of things that affected the world today to people who never knew how things came to be. That is at the core of "Woman in Motion" - a documentary about the life of actress and activist Nichelle Nichols.

If you are a Star Trek fan then you know who Nichelle Nichols is - she portrayed Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek series half a century ago and has reprised her role multiple times in the decades that followed. What you may not know is that she played a singular role - not only in helping to break down barriers during the civil rights era - but also in the composition of America's astronaut corps and to some extent how NASA strove towards diversity at all levels. In so doing, NASA became more relevant to more people than it ever had been before."

Keith's note: According to James Miller at NASA who emailed "NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis" to lots of the usual suspects within the DC space wonk choir, the National Space Council (NSpC) and its Users Advisory Group (UAG) are still alive and active (surprise) with all of their Trump-nominated members:

"... our UAG executive Committee (ExCom) has continued to meet on a regular basis and several Subcommittees, most notably the Education and Outreach Subcommittee, have also continued meeting or are planning to do so. Your participation in those sessions will, of course, be key to their continuing success. In summary, as both the UAG and the NSpC we advise are still active organizations, it seems appropriate that we continue to work to identify areas where we can contribute, even as we await any potential organizational changes."

If you go to pages 8-10 on the UAG's Transition Summary which is appended to this memo you will see that among the organizations the UAG's Education and Outreach subcommittee met with in January 2021 - as the Trump Administration was leaving and the Biden Administration was arriving - were:

EdChoice which is an Indiana-based nonprofit devoted to the privatization of schools through the promotion of an educational voucher system. The right-wing 501(c)(3) nonprofit is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a right wing/libertarian think tank. and The Reagan Institute which says "Here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, our education programs are dedicated to cultivating the next generation of citizen-leaders. Each year we work with thousands of teachers, and tens of thousands of students from across the country to help foster engaged and informed citizens. We invite you to explore these pages for information on programs, scholarships, and opportunities for students and educators."

Keith's note: The usual suspects are telling me that the Biden Administration has decided to keep the National Space Council (NSpC). As to what its real role will be is still TBD. These same usual suspects also wanted to keep the Trump space advisory status quo in place - specifically the NSpC. They even sent the Biden White House a letter saying so (see "Big Aerospace Wants Biden To Keep Trump Space Policy Apparatus In Place"). .

The Biden Administration has brought back PCAST (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) and is filling the emptiness that the Trump Administration caused when they cleared out the offices at OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). As such the nation's top science and technology policy discussions - including space - will be held at an executive level. as things more or less functioned during the Obama Administration. The NSpC will be answering to the Vice President unless they decide to change that. But regardless of what NSpC did or will do it will almost certainly be a tier below the PCAST and what OSTP uses to make decisions.

The membership of the NSpC was re-established by executive order in 2017. Its membership (since amended to include the Department of Energy) consists of the heads of a variety of cabinet level agencies plus other high level agencies. The heads of these agencies only attended to public meetings where pomp and circumstance often seemed to be the prime purpose of the meeting. Truth be known 99% of what the NSpC did was due to Scott Pace and his tiny staff. All of the smoke and mirrors could have been dispensed with and nearly everything that the NSpC did would still have been done - again, due to Scott Pace. Fact.

There is also the issue of what to do with the National Space Council's Users Advisory Group. As I noted in 2018:

"... the Users Advisory Group is almost entirely composed of either political favorites or representatives of large aerospace companies looking for more contracts from NASA and DOD. There are no real "users" of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America's space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber."

NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis, UAG

"As you can see from the Transition Summary, activities of the UAG encompassed a broad range of space and space-related activities, bringing together broad representation from associations, manufacturers, educators, national security experts, and policy makers. Some of our efforts were directed at issues in direct support of NSpC activities; others were self-generated and represented original concepts, observations, findings, or recommendations drawn from the extensive backgrounds of our membership. Our composition has also evolved to appropriately include scientific and regional economic insights, as well. Our diverse representation has been our key strength since it has enabled discussion across many disciplines. ... Even as we await more clarity on what future role we might play, please remember that, in ways large and small, each of you has had a role in supporting the efforts of the National Space Council as it dealt with the challenges and opportunities of defining the future of the nation's space enterprise. Thank you."

Keith's note: Yet according to James Miller at NASA the NSpC and UAG are still alive and active with all of their Trump nominated members:

"At this time the NSpC is staffed by two persons at the Executive Offices of the President (EOP). We are working to reschedule a planned meeting with them to update them on our UAG Subcommittee activities and, in turn, receive any administrative guidance they can provide. In the meantime, our UAG executive Committee (ExCom) has continued to meet on a regular basis and several Subcommittees, most notably the Education and Outreach Subcommittee, have also continued meeting or are planning to do so. Your participation in those sessions will, of course, be key to their continuing success. In summary, as both the UAG and the NSpC we advise are still active organizations, it seems appropriate that we continue to work to identify areas where we can contribute, even as we await any potential organizational changes."

- Space Council Users' Advisory Group Meets Without Any Users, earlier post
- National Space Council UAG Goes Through The Motions Of Being Interested, earlier post
- NASA Invitation for Public Nominations of U.S. Citizens for Potential Service on the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, earlier post
- National Space Council User Advisory Group Is Purging Innovation From Its Ranks, earlier post
- Apply Now To Be On The National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, earlier post
- National Space Council Users' Advisory Group Established, earlier post

Keith's note: You may have noticed that I am doing a global critique of NASA's education and public outreach activities. The prime public face that NASA outs forth - the way it explains itself to the public - are its websites and social media. NASA lives to brag about the sheer size of what they do online - which is easily the most diverse and pervasive of any American government web activities - one with a branding that has a truly global reach - an enviable one at that.

Alas, NASA's online presence is so huge that people find information in spite of how NASA organizes things. While there are some very useful, engaging NASA web resources, much of what NASA has online is out of date, broken, and duplicative. If you raise this issue with NASA they immediately pivot and start talking about the vast audiences they had for their last landing. NASA mistakes the sugar high that they get from these spectaculars from the day-to-day, routine use of its online resources by the people who pay for all of the space stuff. And I am going to point this out.

I have been doing things online for 25 years - as long as NASA has. We have co-evolved. Indeed, over the years I have been called into review NASA sites and regularly interact behind the scenes on how all of this works - often highlighting broken things that need fixing. And I am certain that if you ask Jim Bridenstine who one of his tutors on Internet usage was as he hit the ground running you might hear my name. As for that memo he sent out two years ago directing fixes to NASA's Internet presence, contrary to rumors, no, I did not write it. But ...

When NASA puts out a product - be it a YouTube video, a press release, a pamphlet, or a sticker they do not put "Google NASA". No. They put 'NASA.gov". As such it behooves NASA to make their websites the most engaging and easy to navigate once a visitor arrives. And NASA needs to make sure that the parts of NASA that overlap and collaborate on missions and programs also collaborate online and not resort to stovepipes, walled gardens, and duplicated content. Oh yes: the search engine that NASA offers returns woefully inaccurate, often goofy research results.

Keith's note: The NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer is charged with lots of things and has dabbled over the years in "Open Government" - something that the Obama Administration championed and the Trump people ignored. There is a website called OpenNASA that is supposed to be a focal point for NASA's engagement in Open Government. When you click on the NASA Open Government Plan (the "most recent" report from 2016) you see a CIO who left NASA a year ago. The current CIO seems to have had no interest in revising this activity.

Let's look at the OpenNASA main page. Note that says: "Page Last Updated: Dec. 4, 2019 Page Editor: Jason Duley NASA Official: Beth Beck". Beth Beck retired from NASA in 2018. And yet she is listed as the NASA official on virtually all of the OpenNASA pages. Anyone from outside NASA who wants to contact Open NASA is going to have a hard time. As a matter of fact despite, being established to promote openness, this website has no way to contact the page's authors or the NASA CIO. No link or email address or phone number. Nothing. Isn't this a little ironic that the NASA CIO makes it hard to interact with all of this supposed openness? In fact, this site does not even have a link to the NASA CIO organization itself - or even to NASA.gov.

But wait there's much more.

Let's look at the top menu items (all pages have "Page Editor: Jason Duley NASA Official: Beth Beck"). So even though she has left NASA nearly 3 years ago she is listed as the responsible NASA official. Unless of course she is not and the CIO folks have not found a replacement. That said some pages still list her as the responsible official even though they were updated several years after her departure. So how do you contact this program? BTW email addresses are not provided for either Beth Beck or Jason Duley.

Keith's note: With mounting focus on whether the SLS/Orion Artemis program's delays and cost overruns will continue and how they might be dealt with, one would think that NASA would want to have all of the supportive information it has generated to be accurate so as to best make the case. Given that a lot of money is being thrown around for COVID recovery - and more talk of lots of infrastructure investments is in the wind - there is even more to support having the best information - information that is consistent across the agency - as these things are discussed. You'd also want to have the agency's website configure das as to make those supportive things easy to find. But NASA doesn't do that whole consistency and access thing very well.

You'd also expect that the big aerospace companies who stand to make huge profits - no matter how delayed the Artemis program is - and their external support groups like Aerospace Industries Association, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, and the Space Foundation, would want to see accurate agency numbers and supporting information on the impact of this spending that they can cite so as to be on the same page as NASA.

On 5 May 2016 I noticed a tweet from the NASA Office of Small Business Programs that "Over 800 #smallbusinesses are contributing to the development of the Space Launch System". So I enquired and eventually got more detail about a repeort that they had just issued: "Space Launch System: A Case For Small Business".

If you go to "Space Launch System: A Case For Small Business" you will see that it was published 5 years ago - in 2016 - based on FY 2015 budgets and plans when Charlie Bolden was Administrator. No one has since bothered to update it for the Artemis program changes made during the Trump Administration including the new contracts that were awarded. Also missed are the changes due to cost overruns and program delays. So the numbers are all out of date. The report refers to "Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) scheduled for launch in 2018" on page 10 and refers to "Orbital ATK" which became part of Northrop Grumman several years ago.

Keith's note: One would think that the NASA Office of Small Business Programs website would be super happy about this news. Guess again.They make no mention whatsoever of this news. In fact this website does not even have an obvious link to SBIR or STTR information - the "small business" efforts mentioned in the news. Unless you know to click under "business development and technology" (instead of the more logical "small business programs") which this link that eventually refers you to "news". This does not speak well to the seriousness with which NASA pays attention to small business. More to follow on that.

Keith's note: Earlier this week I pointed out that a search for "education" on the NASA.gov website did not even find the main STEM Engagement Office link. So someone went in and modified the search results by hand. Then I mentioned that if you search for "science" you get "Planet 9" link but no mention of SMD. No one bothered to fix that. Now there is the results you get for a search for "astrobiology". I wonder what happens when you search for "aeronautics" ...

Keith's note: When you think of NASA you think of science. That is because NASA wants you to think that. And since there is a lot of science at NASA, this is rather easy to do. Indeed, many times the people or organizations tasked with getting the science out via education and outreach at NASA are not very good at doing so. But the science is so compelling that it gets out despite attempts to trip it up. And when excellence in communication is coupled with the compelling science the world often stops what it is doing to take a look.

Let's pretend for a moment that we are not NASA employees, space fans, or people familiar with how NASA is organized. Let's just think like regular people who want to understand the science that NASA is always talking about. Maybe you are a student. Perhaps a parent. Or maybe just someone who is curious.

As a regular person you'd think that NASA would position its social and online media assets - the most extensive of any government agency on Earth - to best guide you to all the agency's science. Google "NASA Science" and you see a page of links that all refer to the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) - the top one being science.nasa.gov - the SMD home page. This is good. And it is also not so good. At NASA "Science" and "science" are not the same thing.

Keith's note: Take a look at the NASA Strategy For STEM Engagement 2020-2023 which has been "Approved by the NASA STEM Engagement Council". For starters what exactly is the "NASA STEM Engagement Council"? It is overtly shown as having approved this document but the document never defines its role or function nor who is on the council, what their backgrounds are, and who they represent. If you search for it using the NASA search engine you get nonsense results.

But there is a NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee - which has more words in its name. I just happened to know this but non-NASA people might not. But NASA has lots of names for the same thing, so ... The council lists 7 members and where they work. There is only one female on the council and no bios of the members are available. The last meeting was 6 months ago.

This document is clearly written for a small audience inside of NASA i.e. the people who oversee what the STEM Engagement office does. It is mostly charts and short bits of text which highlight the important points - but never discusses them.

Also, when you get a strategic plan like this there should be some rationale behind the goals and objectives. Clearly NASA needs to focus on education. But the goals and objectives do not mention that they were formulated in response to ongoing needs or problems or deficiencies i.e. that there are places and populations in America who are underserved when it comes to NASA education and outreach activities. If you cannot describe the need then how do you justify these various things that NASA does?

Keith's note: Take a look at the NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee. The page has lots of meeting agendas but no one seems to have taken any notes at the meetings in 2020.

The October 2019 meeting minutes has a few strange entries. This one stands out:

"Mr. Dan Dumbacher noted that the five Sphere 1 activities did not include Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate content. Ms. Brown noted no aeronautics activities were brought forward for Sphere 1. While Office of STEM Engagement strives to be equitable across Mission Directorates each year, no aeronautics activities with a high level of magnitude were brought forward. Not every Mission Directorate will be highlighted each year but will be across years."

So let me get this right: the NASA STEM organization is only going to cover part of NASA's science and technology part of the time? In this case Aeronautics is not being highlighted? And yet in a few days there will be a helicopter flying on Mars - and in so doing - this helicopter will demonstrate every possible aspect of aeronautics as people learn how you can actually fly in an atmosphere 1/100th the density of Earth's at sea level.

If you go to the NASA STEM Engagement main page - there is no mention of Ingenuity or or Mars Perseverance. You would think that a multi-billion dollar mission on Mars - one that utilizes virtually every aspect of NASA science and Technology - would be front and center on the page of the part of NASA dedicated to teaching and learning. Talk about an opportunity dripping with teaching opportunities. Guess again. This organization only serves some of the students some of the time - and it tells you that it is doing so.

Just to be fair the NASA Science Mission Directorate is not exactly promoting educational opportunities associated with this mission either but I suspect they will dial that up. But the NASA Aeronautics folks are much more proactive with a link to a page with overt STEM activities - something that the NASA STEM Engagement Office is ignoring.

Book Review: "Alien Oceans: The Search For Life In The Depths Of Space" by Kevin Hand

"We live on an ocean world with 71% its surface covered by a water. For all of history humans had an intrinsic bias that all inhabited worlds would have large oceans - since we do. Indeed, the large flat plains of our Moon still bear names of imaginary seas based on that bias and early telescopes. That said we held to the notion that life would arise on a world if only it had Earth's basic characteristics - one of which was large bodies of water. Well, we now know that there is more than one way to have a planet with lots of liquid water."

Moffett Field will not be used to house unaccompanied migrant children, SJ Mercury News

"The Biden administration will not use vacant facilities at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field as overflow temporary housing for unaccompanied migrant children, an elected official said."

Keith's note: In a nutshell NASA's education and outreach activities are overlooked, underemphasized, and underfunded; scattered and unfocused; and are simultaneously duplicative and non-complimentary. This is nothing new. It has been this way for decades.

The NASA STEM Engagement Office used to be called the NASA Education Office but NASA changed it to satisfy the demands of the Trump Administration who tried to defund it year after year - but Congress always put the money back. The Trump folks are gone but the name remains. "STEM" is almost always used with the word "education". To say "STEM Engagement" is like referring to ice cream as a "frozen dairy product with flavoring" when everyone else just says "ice cream" but we all know that NASAese is a hard habit to break.

No one managing the NASA STEM Engagement Office is a formally trained education professional - starting with the Associate Administrator. This is no big deal if the office functions in backwater mode - where no one really cares what they do. But we are talking about the preeminent space agency on our planet. This Administration seems to be inclined to bring science and knowledge back into the way we run our society. Think of how often the equivalent if college education gets wasted every time a NASA contract has a daily cost hiccup. You would think that the agency is thinking of a total overhaul of its education and outreach - with a budget that can make that happen.

That said, if President Biden can put an actual teacher in charge of the Department of EDUCATION then NASA can change the name to reflect what the office does. With a person holding PhD in EDUCATION who is also First Lady one would think that this topic gets discussed at the dinner table in the White House. You'd think that NASA would sense an inherent green light to go a head and fix this situation and staff the organization with education professionals and give it a budget commensurate with its important role.

That said, NASA does do a lot of good education stuff. The hard part is figuring out what they do and why they do it - and how they tell if they are doing the right thing.

Glynn Lunney

President Biden Announces his Intent to Nominate Bill Nelson for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, White House

"Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint, including passing the landmark NASA bill of 2010 along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. That law set NASA on its present dual course of both government and commercial missions. In 1986 he flew on the 24th flight of the Space Shuttle. The mission on Columbia, orbited the earth 98 times during six days. Nelson conducted 12 medical experiments including the first American stress test in space and a cancer research experiment sponsored by university researchers. In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation's space program. He now serves on the NASA Advisory Council."

Keith's note: Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today released the following statement after the Biden administration nominated Senator Bill Nelson to lead NASA.

"Bill Nelson is an excellent pick for NASA Administrator. He has the political clout to work with President Biden's Office of Management and Budget, National Security Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and bipartisan Members of the House and Senate. He has the diplomatic skills to lead an international coalition sustainably to the Moon and on to Mars. Bill Nelson will have the influence to deliver strong budgets for NASA and, when necessary, he will be able to enlist the help of his friend, President Joe Biden. The Senate should confirm Bill Nelson without delay."

How ironic. Nelson used every nasty tool he had to try to thwart Bridenstine's nomination. When Jim finally got in what did he do? He put Bill Nelson - who had been defeated in a re-election bid - on the NASA Advisory Council. There are so few class acts in politics and government today. Jim Bridenstine is one of them. Bill Nelson is not. Let's hope that Nelson is able to rise above his past and become non-partisan and non-parochial and that he runs NASA for the American people and not just for Florida or one big rocket.

- Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Comments on Bill Nelson's Nomination
- Chairwoman Johnson and Subcommittee Chairman Beyer Applaud Nomination of Senator Bill Nelson for NASA Administrator
- CSF statement on the nomination of Senator Bill Nelson (Ret.) for NASA Administrator
- The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Congratulates the NASA Space Launch System Team as U.S. Prepares to Return to the Moon

- 2021 Bill Nelson Wants To Be NASA Administrator - 2017 Bill Nelson Says He's Not Qualified, earlier post
- Sen. Nelson's Effort To Undermine NASA by blocking Bridenstine, earlier post (2018)
- Bill Nelson Continues To Block NASA Administrator Nominees, earlier post (2009)

NASA Mega Moon Rocket Passes Key Test, Readies for Launch

"The largest rocket element NASA has ever built, the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, fired its four RS-25 engines for 8 minutes and 19 seconds Thursday at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The successful test, known as a hot fire, is a critical milestone ahead of the agency's Artemis I mission, which will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight around the Moon and back to Earth, paving the way for future Artemis missions with astronauts."

- Chairs Johnson and Beyer Congratulate NASA and Its Industry Partners on Successful Final SLS Core Stage Test
- Boeing, NASA Complete Hot Fire Test of Space Launch System Core Stage for Artemis I, Boeing
- Successful SLS Core Stage Hot-Fire Test Puts America One Step Closer to Returning to the Moon, Aerojet

NASA Joins White House National Climate Task Force, NASA

"As a leading agency observing and understanding environmental changes to Earth, NASA has joined the National Climate Task Force. President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 27, which initially outlined details of the task force."

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

"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."

- World Class Advisor Named For NASA's Minor Role In Climate Change Efforts, earlier post
- Climate Science At NASA: Building Back Better After The Trump Era, earlier post

Keith's note: Interesting historical note: Steve Isakowitz was the original Obama/Biden (planned) NASA administrator nominee back in 2009 - but Sen. Nelson refused to meet with him - blocking him and insisting on Charlie Bolden instead. Nelson then did his best to block Jim Bridenstine from becoming Administrator because he was a "career politician". These things don't always run smoothly.

Biden expected to nominate former senator Bill Nelson to be NASA administrator, Washington Post

"Lori Garver, who served as NASA deputy administrator under President Obama, said the choice of Nelson was "an ironic turn of events considering he blocked President Obama's top-nominees for the job in 2009 and then led the congressional effort that dismantled the Obama-Biden strategy and proposed budget, created the Space Launch System, reinstated Orion and cut funding for technology and commercial crew." She added that Nelson will need to understand why the SLS rocket "has cost so much more than projected." But she said he "has already had more influence on NASA than anyone in recent memory, so he has plenty of experience and should be able to hit the ground running."

Keith's note: Meanwhile the usual suspects inside the Beltway in Big Aerospace are lining up for jobs ...

Biden to tap Bill Nelson to lead NASA, Politico

"If you have someone like Sen. Nelson, who has decades of experience and a personal relationship with the president, they'll have a different ability to voice their reaction or response to the budget process. ... That will have a very real impact," said Mike French, the vice president of space systems at the Aerospace Industries Association. "To me, the most important thing is your ability to manage and look out for the agency's interests ... independent of your background."

2021 Bill Nelson Wants To Be NASA Administrator - 2017 Bill Nelson Says He's Not Qualified, earlier post

Russian Film Plans Mean NASA Astronaut Could Spend an Entire Year in Space, Gizmodo

"Russian director Klim Shipenko and an actress to be named later might join the Soyuz MS-19 mission, which is scheduled for launch in October, as AP reports. .. Once filming activities are done, Shipenko and his partner, along with Novitskiy, would return home on MS-18, likely within a week. The two seats were meant for Vande Hei and Dubrov, which means the pair might have to stay on the ISS until the next return trip home, likely in the spring of 2022."

Keith's note: So ... NASA no longer has an arrangement with Russia to buy Soyuz seats. As such they have to use Axiom Space (who has some sort of undisclosed deal with Roscosmos to own/control a Soyuz seat) that they can swap for a seat on a Boeing or SpaceX flight (another TBD deal) - all for the purpose of assuring a U.S. presence on the ISS. But wait: the return seat is not guaranteed and the American flying in the Axiom Space Soyuz seat may have to stay on the ISS for a year?

I thought the whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was that SpaceX and Boeing were going to be flying to/from ISS on a regular basis and do so in a fashion that assured U.S. access - in both directions? So why is it that an American can't get a ride home when they are supposed to? This sounds like American astronauts are now flying on standby tickets. I'd ask NASA PAO - but they never answer these sort of questions.

Who negotiated this mess?

- Congress Inquires About NASA/Russia - Soyuz Deals, earlier post
- Is NASA Running A Soyuz Seat Swap Scheme?, earlier post
- NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American, earlier post

Keith's 18 March update: It has been 24 48 72 96 hours and no mention of this discovery by NASA public affairs or its science mission news sites. I know that NASA HQ knows about this story. The logical place for a news item would be SMD's NASA Science News but they are only interested in planets and stars.

Keith's note: Three novel microorganisms i.e. bacterial strains never before isolated and identified - have been found on the ISS according to a paper published in Frontiers In Microbiology: "Methylobacterium ajmalii sp. nov., Isolated From the International Space Station".

I posted the press release on my Astrobiology.com website - but I used the originating press release title - which could be a little better, BTW since it only scratches the surface of what was discovered: "Bacterial Strains Discovered On The Space Station May Help Grow Plants On Mars".

Let me say this again: three new terrestrial life forms have been discovered - in space - on a space station - using advanced genomics. That is certainly "space biology" and it certainly has relevance to "astrobiology" given that these life forms were discovered growing inside a space station i.e in outer space where they seem to have found an ecological niche. They also have relevance to sensing humans to Mars since they are related to nitrogen fixing which will figure into how we might grow plants in a life support system on other worlds like Mars.

The press release by the journal mentions the funding source: "The research described in this manuscript was funded by a 2012 Space Biology NNH12ZTT001N Grant No. 19-12829-26 under Task Order NNN13D111T awarded to KV, and NASA's 2018 Space Biology (ROSBio) NNH18ZTT001N-FG App B: Flight and Ground Space Biology Research Grant No. 80NSSC19K1501 awarded to CCCW." So NASA Space Biology Program gets a nod - but no connection is made to where space biology fits in the grander scheme of things i.e. the NASA Science Mission Directorate which makes zero mention of this on their science news website.

NASA Astrobiology is not mentioned. The reason NASA will give is that the specific program with this name did not fund it - even though space biology and astrobiology are both within SMD (which is never mentioned). While Mars is mentioned, JPL will make no mention of it on its Mars page since the missions to Mars - even though they are searching for life and testing the potential of supporting terrestrial life there - did not fund this.

The ISS Program Office will not mention this either since SMD/Space Biology funded it - not them. Yet the ISS readily post pictures of the vegetables they grow in space and the research that they do relating to plant growth - if they fund it, that is.

But CASIS/ISSNL - who did not fund or mention this research - did tweet a link to a Scientific American article "NASA Will Map Every Living Thing on the International Space Station". So at least someone at CASIS/ISSNL is paying attention to the overall topic of sequencing in space.

And of course, even though there is some hefty genomics involved NASA Genelab won't mention it since they were not involved. But I am pretty sure that the NASA funded SPACELINE Current Awareness List due out this Friday will certainly make mention. Oh, by the way - NASA's Space Biology, Space Medicine, Astrobiology programs and the ISS program Office and CASIS make no mention of SPACELINE, a NASA-funded research service that puts out a weekly summary of related space life science research. Go figure: NASA has a funded group that finds all of these synergies - yet no one knows that it even exists.

Update: Spaceline did indeed make mention of this research in their 19 March 2021 edition - see item #3.

Think of all the life science and exploration synergies that this discovery could have - if only NASA had the organizational software to seek out such synergies and bring them to light. The public is constantly inquiring as to what NASA does and why it does them. NASA seems to think that they need to justify what they do to their "stakeholders" but they never really do it. Building bridges between the various programs within NASA and things outside the agency would seem to be a prudent thing to do, right? Guess again. There are obvious synergies outside of NASA: how the genomics and microbiology were done, links to agriculture, etc. But NASA would have to cooperate internally to catch all of this and assemble it into a coherent larger picture. Again, NASA doesn't do that.

So .. articles with accurate headlines of "Microbes Unknown to Science Discovered on The International Space Station" will have no mention by any NASA websites. Cool NASA research will be a NASA PR orphan and the media will arrive at their own conclusions without any help from NASA.

Babin Requests Information on Europa Clipper Mission and SLS Use

" I'm expecting a prompt response from NASA answering our questions on their analyses of launch vehicles, as well as cost, schedule, and mission impacts."

Letter From Rep. Babin To NASA Administrator Jurczyk Regarding Europa Clipper and SLS Launch Issues

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2021/babin.s.jpg

Image guide: White = Actual information request from Babin to NASA; Gray = legal gotcha language from a Babin staffer (larger image)

Keith's note: You really should take a look at the letter that Rep. Babin sent to Steve Jurczyk on this whole Europa Clipper/SLS launch decision thing. I gotta tell you, I have neen reading letters between Congress and NASA for 25 years. Some have been rather pointed, confrontational, and snarky. And I have certainly written more than my fair share of snarky gotcha PAO and FOIA requests to NASA designed to make sure that no stone is left unturned. But I have to say that in all the time I have been editing NASAWatch I have never seen a letter from Congress to NASA requesting formation wherein the quasi-legalistic definitions of what constitutes the requested information - and how it is to be identified, sourced, and transmitted to Congress - that uses three times the words of what information is actually being asked for.

Rep. Babin is in the minority, so there is only so much mischief that he can do with whatever NASA provides. But he clearly has some legal eagle on his staff who is trying use their law degree to catch NASA in the act of doing something bad or not being responsive - however trivial the infraction may be.

- Moon 2024 Goal Delays SLS Availability For Europa Clipper, earlier post
- NASA OIG Audit: Management Of NASA's Europa Mission, NASA OIG, earlier post
- NASA OIG Follow-up to May 2019 Audit of Europa Mission: Congressional Launch Vehicle Mandate, earlier post

Book Review: "The Sirens of Mars: Searching For Life On Another World" by Sarah Stewart Johnson

"We humans just landed yet another rover on Mars. As has been the case for decades, each mission to Mars builds upon the successes and failures of those that preceded it. And each mission seeks to ask more profound questions that its predecessors. The Perseverance rover is now unpacking itself and preparing to explore Jezero crater - a mobile astrobiologist in search of evidence that Mars may have once harbored life.

How we got the point where we can send complex droids to Mars was not easy. It all started with people looking through telescopes - often with overactive imaginations. That led to spacecraft barely more sophisticated than a toaster with a shortwave radio which shattered many of those earlier preconceptions. Those early missions blazed a trail of ever increasing complexity and sophistication."

Artemis will accelerate the commercial space sector , Space News

"As the first flight of Artemis moves ever closer from Kennedy Space Center, critics continue to raise questions around the cost of the U.S. return to the moon by pointing to private sector alternatives as more expeditious and less resource intensive. Somehow lost in this critique is that the private sector is, in fact, the workforce behind all of NASA's design and manufacturing of launch vehicles and crew modules. That was true in the 1960s for Apollo and remains true today for Artemis."

Keith's note: This op ed by Christian Zur, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is one of those industry apologist word salads that includes history, buzz words, and rabbit holes that have nothing to do with the intended topic and distracts from the point he is trying to make.

He starts with fallacies such as "After all, since the retirement of the Saturn V rocket, no nation nor company had even built a vehicle capable of delivering astronauts back to cislunar orbit. Until the Space Launch System, that is." Um ... Falcon Heavy can do that easily. It has already flown. SLS has not.

Zur then goes on to somehow equate a large NASA workforce, some World War II contracts and some other government programs that sparked the semi-conductor industry. OK, so space stuff drives innovation. Guess what: he is right: and the innovation now resides mostly in the private sector when launch services that rival NASA's can be bought - off the shelf - now - for vastly cheaper than what has been sunk into SLS - or what the per-use cost of each mission on SLS would be.

Artemis did indeed accelerate activity in the private sector by offering private sector a role. SLS also accelerated the capability of the private sector - but it did so by providing a wonderful example of what not to do ever again - starting with the building of a government-designed mega-rocket that is too expensive to operate - and then making it the choke point in a human exploration program that has chronic whiplash from 2 decades switching back and forth from one destination to another.

SLS is not the inovation we got from NASA rocket science investments. Falcon rockets are.

- George Abbey: Time To Reconsider The Need For SLS, earlier post

Keith's note:
Last night I tweeted a link to this update about mask issues at JSC and Michoud. Shortly thereafter Twitter started to "shadow ban" @NASAWatch i.e. limit the account's visibility. The only way to get out of this situation is to not tweet from @NASAWatch for a few days - perhaps a week. As such, to prevent this from happening again, I will no longer be able to tweet anything about the pandemic or NASA's response to it. It is good that Twitter seeks to get rid of fake news and inaccurate information about the pandemic but they have gone overboard in this situation by silencing actual news about an effort by JSC to keep their people safe.

9 March Reader update: "Today during a JSC 'townhall' the center management said to disregard the Governor's direction and wear masks, maintain reduced workplace capacity at about 30%, and maintain physical distancing. Also, they said to try and get vaccines from other local sources and not from the center as center capabilities are limited. And they said all of this while wearing masks."

NASA Signs Contract to Fly a NASA Astronaut on April Soyuz Rotation to the International Space Station

"To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA has signed a contract with a U.S. commercial company Axiom Space of Houston to fly a NASA astronaut on an upcoming Soyuz rotation on Soyuz MS-18, scheduled to launch April 9. In exchange, NASA will provide a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft, expected to launch in 2023, as part of a space station crew rotation mission. The "seat" on each flight includes transportation to and from the International Space Station and comprehensive mission support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue services.

Because the services are determined to be of comparable value to both parties, the contract contains no exchange of funds.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will launch aboard the Soyuz for a full expedition aboard the International Space Station. NASA will continue to work with Axiom to fly a non-NASA astronaut Axiom designates on a U.S. commercial spacecraft."

Keith's note: For starters Axiom Space does not have the ability to launch anything into space. They have to procure those services elsewhere. In this case Axiom clearly has some sort of deal with Roscosmos - one that Roscomos likes. Otherwise NASA would deal directly with Roscosmos as they have been for decades, right? So, assuming that the Russians are not stupid, is Axiom getting a special discount from Roscosmos as a marketing fee in exchange for selling a seat to NASA? Apparently so since they are certainly not doing this for free (they are in "business", yes?). So, why can't NASA get the same discount - without needing to use Axiom as a middleman?

Congress noticed the third party aspect of this: "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."

Keith's note: NASA has some amazing online resources - you can find exoplanets, track satellites, watch weather, and see meteors. These resources intrinsically overlap. So you'd think that NASA would always be thinking of ways to leverage one resource with another so as to provide an emergent property: a fuller, richer picture of the world - and the universe around us - using all of the tools NASA can offer. Guess again.

One part of NASA regularly knows that there is a synergy with someone else's stuff but they won't act on that since someone else's resources are well, someone else's resources. Different divisions or directorates or centers, different pots of money, different management interests. Net result: NASA is an amazing mix of neat toys spread out across the web with minimal thought given as to how best to convey them to the public. And then there is a sexy mission landing or launch and NASA is on a sugar high for a few days. Then its back to being dysfunctional. Why fix the routine stuff, they ask - did you see how many people watched the landing?

NASA stove pipes prevent collaboration. The net result of these artificial barriers is that trying to navigate the totality of NASA's web presence is often an exercise in rabbit hole diving. Yes, O my readers, I have ranted relentlessly about this before. But it is the gift that keeps on giving. NASA never fixes these things even when they are pointed out to them.

Some new examples. The NASA Meteorwatch Facebook page has a NASA MSFC website address that links to the NASA MSFC Meteoroid Environment Office. The Twitter account also has a MSFC home - yet the Twitter account has not tweeted anything about meteors since 2015 but retweeted a @NASA Tweet once in 2019 and another in 2020. And the Flickr account you are sent to has nothing to do with meteors. So why have this inert Twitter account named exactly the same as a NASA activity - one that is active?

Allan McDonald

Remembering Allan McDonald: He Refused To Approve Challenger Launch, Exposed Cover-Up, NPR

"Now, 35 years after Challenger, McDonald's family reports that he died Saturday in Ogden, Utah, after suffering a fall and brain damage. He was 83 years old. "There are two ways in which [McDonald's] actions were heroic," recalls Mark Maier, who directs a leadership program at Chapman University and produced a documentary about the Challenger launch decision. "One was on the night before the launch, refusing to sign off on the launch authorization and continuing to argue against it," Maier says. "And then afterwards in the aftermath, exposing the cover-up that NASA was engaged in."

Keith's note: I grew up in the late 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s - alongside NASA and the world's space programs. As such, my generation mostly had to make things up as we went in terms of what a space career was and how to pursue one. Flash forward a third of a century and Kellie Gerardi's generation arrives.

Arthur C. Clarke once said that there was a pivot point in history. On one side are those people who were alive before space travel was real such that it only existed in fiction. And on the other side there were people born and raised when space travel was a reality. I do not recall a time when we did not explore space. For me - even from the age of 6 - it has always been profoundly real - and exciting.

Kellie's generation grew up in a world where sending people and robots into space was perfectly routine. Indeed, she grew up where the Voyager missions to the outer solar system and the famous 'Pale Blue dot' image were "history". It is hard for me to grasp that having been alive when it all happened, standing at JPL during the two Saturn encounters. Her society depends on space technology to function. For two thirds of her life, she has never known a time when there was not always someone living in space - 24/7/365. And her young daughter will never know a world where humans were confined to one planet.

So, Kellie wrote a book subtitled "Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginners Guide To Life In The Space Age".

NASA Updates Pricing Policy to Full Value for Commercial Activities on Space Station

"In June 2019, NASA first released its commercial marketing pricing policy to establish subsidized pricing to stimulate and enable the use of resources on the space station. NASA anticipated revisiting the pricing policy periodically and adjusting prices as market forces dictated in response to interest, market growth, and competition (reference NID 8600.121). The pricing policy from June 2019 did not reflect full reimbursement for the value of NASA resources; it was intended to stimulate the market and was planned to be adjusted. Based on discussions with stakeholders, the current market growth, and in anticipation of future commercial entities capable of providing similar services, the agency has updated the Commercial Use Activities pricing policy effective immediately."

Keith's note: NASA has done a stealth increase on the cost of making commercial use of the ISS. This is what it cost on 13 July 2019. And this is what it costs now.

ISS expedition crew member time used to cost $17,500/hr. Now it costs $130,000/hr. Upmass (passive cargo) used to cost $3,000/Kg - now it costs $20,000/kg. The earlier rate chart included fees for private astronaut missions which cost $11,250 per day for life suport/toilet and crew suplies (and food) at $22,500 per person per day. The basic cost (without internet or power) was $33,750/day per person. NASA has yet to post a revised rate chart for private visitors but since everything else has increased by a factor of approximately 7, that daily cost will probably increase to around $236,250 per day.

- NASA Announces A Space Station Pricing Plan, earlier post
- OIG Announces Review Of NASA's LEO Commercialization Activities, earlier post
- SpaceX Announces First Wholly Civilian Crewed Space Mission, earlier post
- ISS Commercialization Is Here: Reality Shows and Perfume Ads, earlier post
- Trying To Figure Out The Axiom Team's NASA Agreements (Updated), earlier post
- Expanding The ISS For Customers That No One Can Identify, earlier post

Etop Esen

Keith's note: From CASIS: In remembrance of Etop Esen, Ph.D., It is with a sad heart that we announce the tragic death of our beloved friend and colleague, Dr. Etop Esen. He is survived by Imeh, his wife, and his two beautiful children. Etop suffered a heart attack on Saturday Feb 27th during his routine jog. A "Go Fund Me" to help the family with the expenses can be found with this link. https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-etops-family-with-funeral-cost

Keith's update: Over $11,000 $14,000 $15,000 $17,000 $22,000 has been raised. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Details of the funeral arrangements are at the GoFundMe link.

Keith's note: From my 24 July 1999 NASA PAO media accreditation request:

"NASA Watch is read regularly (during regular working hours) from all NASA centers, the White House (they even asked me to post an OMB job opening on NASA Watch), other agencies, Congress, the aerospace industry, reporters for the "legitimate" press. It is also read by people from countries and locations around the world - including Antarctica. Readership is growing, not fading. I can only surmise that this is because NASA Watch offers something called "news" - even if it is often presented alongside clearly denoted editorial opinion. NASA Watch is only the beginning of what will follow. Others will soon be online (and not in print) who are much more adept at this art than I. They too will be asking for accreditation."

Keith's 7 March update: Update: it took @NASAJPL and @NASA two days to tweet something about the event. There is still no mention about the event at the JPL website or on NASA.gov.

Keith's 5 March note: Yesterday morning the President's schedule was released. At 5:00 pm EST was "The President participates in a virtual call to congratulate the NASA JPL Perseverance team on the successful Mars landing" with a note that this was restricted to "in-house Pool Spray". In other words the only people in the room would be the small group of cameras and personnel that taped the event so as to provide the footage to all media outlets. In keeping with a rule set by the White House Correspondents Association, no one else can broadcast that event. Yes, it sounds silly and restrictive to the free flow of information, but it is what it is. Eventually C-SPAN and other news outlets posted it - within a matter of minutes after the call ended.

NASA had the better part of a day to prepare for this. The intended audience was NASA JPL but over 6,000 employees and associated researchers were invited to listen and watch. The full text of the event was posted by the White House between 7:00 and 8:00 pm EST per standard procedure. (Here is a sentence by sentence analysis).

You would think that NASA and JPL would have had more than enough advance notice so as to arrange for a recording to be made for later posting as well as to have a transcript made. Failing that, you'd think that they could have posted links on their websites and massive Twitter accounts.

Keith's note: More than 6,000 people were invited to listen to the President's remarks. NASA TV was not allowed to broadcast it live to the rest of the nation. But some media outlets were allowed to record it for their exclusive use. The success of Mars Perseverance is for all Americans to share - not just a chosen few. I thought that this team got that. Guess not. The first part of this video has no audio for some reason.

'Remarks by President Biden in a Call to Congratulate the NASA JPL Perseverance Team on the Successful Mars Landing

"DR. MOHAN: Absolutely. So my path actually started way back when I was a child, watching my first episode of Star Trek. In addition to those fantastical scenes of space, what really captured my attention was this really close-knit team who was working together, manipulating this technological marvel with the sole purpose of exploring space and understanding new things and seeking new life."

BIDEN: God only knows what is going to come from this. God only knows what is going to happen. But you all are incredible. All of the dreams that you have created in other people's minds - all the young kids. I tell you what... I just wanted to thank you and tell you, you know, it just seems that we are on the side of the angels. At the moment when things look like they are really dark in America, over our history, something has come along. Something has come along - and you guys came along and you did this. so I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is presumptuous of me to say how proud I am of you - but I am so proud of you. And Mike, the teamwork that still exists there - and the importance of it and the consequence of what you are doing - its only just a start. I had a group of folks in my office not too long ago - House and Senate members - Democrats and Republicans - talking about infrastructure. And I have, on a shelf in the Oval Office, a Moon rock. And they walked over and said 'is this actually a Moon rock - from the Moon?' And I jokingly said 'you ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait 'til you see what comes home from Mars.' "

There is a better video here on C-SPAN.

NASA's Space Launch System, George W.S. Abbey, Baker Institute for Public Policy

"In view of the current availability of a significant number of commercial launch vehicles with proven payload capabilities, as well as the industry's progress in providing a launch vehicle with significantly greater lift capabilities, the Biden administration should reconsider the need for the SLS during its annual budget review. Its launch costs are much greater than those being quoted for existing rockets, as well as those projected for larger commercial boosters with comparable payload capabilities to the SLS. Affordability must always be considered in view of demanding budgets and in view of the availability and the acceptability of lower-cost alternatives."

The Biden administration has set out to dismantle Trump's legacy, except in one area: Space, Washington Post

"Though many in the space community thought the Trump administration's goal to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 was impossible and politically motivated, it gave the program momentum. And many at NASA were worried that the Biden administration, which said virtually nothing about space during the campaign, would change course again, continuing a record often compared with the scene in the cartoon strip "Peanuts" when Lucy pulls the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it. Since coming into office, however, Biden has shown an interest in space. He installed a moon rock in the Oval Office, and the White House published a video of him watching NASA's Perseverance rover landing on Mars last month. Afterward Biden called to congratulate Steve Jurczyk, NASA's acting administrator, who has spent more than 30 years at NASA."

Earlier posts

Keith's note: Websites are a thing that people have been doing for a quarter of a century. Despite all of the fancy graphics and tricks there are some basic things a good website should do. NASA has lots of websites - more than any other government agency. The agency's Internet reach is truly global. But it gets this global reach in spite of itself. Its web presence is a jumbled mess with endless actors competing with one another to get their message out without any thought to collaboration or strategic intent.

If you go to a website for an organization or company you will see an "about" menu item. If you check the menu underneath you will see "About us"; "Who we are", "What we do", "Where we are", and "How to contact us". You might also see something like "audience" or "product categories". Under "About us" "who we are" explains where the website sponsor came from and who the "management", "Advisors", and other significant personnel are. "What we do" explains what they sell or offer as service. "Where we are" describes factory or sales or operations locations. "How to contact us" offers email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, online query forms or other means whereby you can make contact.

NASA tries to do some of this but mostly stumbles into itself, creates dead ends, rabbit holes, and is beset by the stovepipe mentality rampant within the agency wherein everyone does their own thing no matter how redundant it may be. In many cases, as I have noted before, NASA often has 2 or more websites covering the same mission or topic since it is easier to avoid food fights and turf battles by tolerating the status quo.

Jim Bridenstine ordered the agency to fix its website mess in 2019 (see Overhauling NASA's Tangled Internet Presence). The situation existed in 2017 (see Dueling NASA Websites Update) and 2011 (see NASA's Inability To Speak With One Voice Online) and so on. The 2019 action to fix things went to CIO and PAO. They did nothing for a year and then tossed it to the NASA Chief Scientist's office. Supposedly there is something under development but since nothing has changed in the past two years since an action was assigned I am dubious of its imminent arrival or value.

So let's take another swipe at what is broken. If you go to NASA.gov and go to "About" in the top menu and click on leadership all you get is a short bio of Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. No one else is mentioned. You have to go to Organization to get that information. Oddly, all of the people listed are indeed the agency's leadership but they are not listed on the leadership page. All of the field centers are listed at the bottom of the leadership page with a one sentence listing of their specialties. But if you go to the org chart from August 2020 many of the locations are not even mentioned - Wallops, White Sands, Michoud, IV&V, Safety etc. Shared services and JPL are shown in different places).

If you go to locations there is also a list of the NASA field centers but no mention is made of what they do (unlike the leadership page which at least gives a few key words for what each center does). Moreover if you visit each of NASA's locations (field centers) they only talk about themselves and rarely (if ever) talk about other NASA field centers. Indeed, they often take NASA HQ press releases and modify them to have a local feel with local contacts. If you land on one of these field center websites you'd be almost certain to not know that there are any other field centers operated by NASA. One would also think that an explanation of what each field center does and what areas it serves would be prudent. But then again, if you read the content on each of the sites, you'd be forgiven for thinking that each field center does everything that NASA as a whole does. As such, a chart showing what they do would be pointless since every field center would fight to have every box checked for every topic - even if they only do a tiny piece of that work.

One extreme example is JPL. If you go to the NASA JPL website and click on the NASA logo you go to ... the site you are already reading. The only place you can find a link to NASA on NASA JPL main page is at the absolute bottom of the page on the left hand side in small type. Talk about burying visibility of NASA outside of JPL.

But back to NASA.gov. If you look at the options under "NASA Audiences" you have 3 to choose from: Media, Educators, Students. There is nothing for "Scientists/Engineers, "Business Interests", or "Policy Makers". There are topical links but they lead you away from most of what the agency has online. Try "Solar System And Beyond". There is no link to the NASA Science Mission Directorate where all of this stuff is done. The "The Search for Life and Exoplanets" page makes mention of the Astrobiology program or the multibillion dollar Mars Perseverance mission and its "mobile astrobiologist". If you go to the Earth page there is zero mention of the major effort by the White House to address climate change. And despite having the word "aeronautics" in its name - there is no obvious link to "aeronautics" at NASA.gov.

Given that the Biden Administration is all about SCIENCE - with the tagline #ScienceIsBack in frequent use, you'd think that there would be more of a focus on helping visitors find all of the science goodness at NASA - both for the general public and for actual scientists and policy makers. Good luck with that. If you use the Search box on the upper right hand side you get results that are a mix of specific and general, and that are old and new. No strategic thought of presenting topics of relevance to current policy discussions is presented in a strategic, prominent fashion.

But NASA does have some amazing only research and search capabilities. You can only find them if you know in advance to look for them. NASA.gov is of no help. NASA.gov and its subsidiary pages make no up front mention of these NASA funded search resources. One example is PubSpace - a NASA partnership with the PubMed Central (PMC) repository, hosted by The National Institutes of Health, to provide public access to peer-reviewed papers resulting from NASA-funded research. One page buried deep inside the website sends you here where only NASA folks seem to be welcome. The public? No mention. But if you know to go to the actual PubSpace site hosted by NIH - well, everyone is welcome.

Then there is the treasure trove of 70-plus years of NASA and NACA information at NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) which "provides access to NASA metadata records, full-text online documents, images, and videos. The types of information included are conference papers, journal articles, meeting papers, patents, research reports, images, movies, and technical videos - scientific and technical information created or funded by NASA." You can't find it anywhere prominent via NASA.gov.

NASA JSC posted this the other day: International Space Station Archives Fuel New Scientific Discoveries: "That legacy is evident in a publication by Cell Press, a collection of scientific journals that recently compiled 29 papers on the biology of spaceflight or the study of how space affects the human body. A number of the papers relied on the NASA Life Sciences Data Archive (LSDA) and NASA's Genelab, two repositories that contain decades of biological samples and data from the International Space Station." Cool stuff, eh? Worth telling the world about, don't you think? Go to the Humans In Space page. No mention of either database. Go to the International Space Station link. No mention of either database. Go to Space Station Research and Technology. No mention of either database. Indeed go to Let's Explore Space Station Science with a searchable database. No mention of either database.

Another overlooked resource is extremely comprehensive NASA Spaceline which is "compiled weekly, contain citations to articles from peer-reviewed journals and other recent publications of interest in the space life sciences." It is buried on the NASA Taskbook website which no one in the real world ever hears about. The ISS Program Office and CASIS make no mention of this listing of their own research results. Indeed, the only complete archive is on our SpaceRef website back to 1999. NASA's support for this service has wavered - but we did a diving catch to make sure it was not lost. So ... I could go on - but I have been doing that for decades. Have a look here.

When it comes to stunning imagery and stories of the moment, NASA constantly manages to thrill, awe, and stun the world with its audacious accomplishments. Yet the same agency manages to hide much of its treasures - thus limiting the full impact of its discoveries and limiting its ability to have an impact beyond its comparatively small governmental sandbox. Maybe the Biden folks will fix this once and for all.


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