April 2021 Archives

IMEC and Cook County Partner with NASA to Bring New Business Opportunity Event to Manufacturers

"Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, the Chicago Metro Metal Consortium (CMMC), and IMEC will host a 3-Day virtual event with NASA and its prime contractors to bring new business opportunities to manufacturers in Cook County and throughout Illinois. In 2020, NASA's prime contractors received over $2B in contract funding to support the Marshall Space Flight Center's ongoing development of NASA's Space Launch System and its proposals to create complementary systems."

Keith's note: If you look at what the Biden Administration is saying about business and infrastructure they have a page focused on Illinois. They have one for every state. They are looking to reinvigorate a broad range of activities in America - not just infrastructure but also basic aspects of business.

You'd think that someone at NASA HQ would be reading the policy memos from the White House as to what is important and worth promoting a visible way. This event sounds like it is resonating with all of these new White House efforts. You'd think that NASA would want everyone to know about this - and show the White House that they are on board with all of there initiatives - not just in Illinois - but as an example of NASA-related events that could be conducted across America. Guess again.

There is no mention of this event or associated activity at the NASA MSFC home page or on its Doing Business page. No mention at NASA.gov. No mention at the NASA Office of Small Business Programs, or the NASA SLS home page, or at the NASA Commercial Space page.

As you can see below this is not the first time that NASA has bungled the outreach for the true economic impact of what it does.

- That NASA SLS Small Business Report Is Out Of Date, earlier post
- Another NASA Business Event Few Will Ever Hear About, earlier post
- JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update), earlier post
- SLS Spurred The Private Sector By Being A Bad Example, earlier post
- NASA Centers Can't Be Bothered To Mention The Economic Report, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Bad Orion Marketing Hype, earlier post
- NASA: A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post

"The Mission: A True Story" By David W. Brown: A Review

"To most people outside of NASA, a space mission that is making the news often appears out of nowhere. Sometimes there may be a little news when it is launched and maybe some tidbits along the way. Otherwise, when it does something cool - like land on a planet or sends back pretty pictures, you hear about it albeit with no back story. For a moment NASA gets a sugar high and then ... nothing - unless the mission makes a big discovery down the road. 

Yes, NASA puts out newsy things with factoids and status reports, but for most people, these missions just seem to happen. But where did the mission come from, people may wonder. Whose idea was it? Who are those people jumping up and down in the control room? Were there other ways to do the mission? Did someone want to go somewhere else instead? Did everyone agree or were there arguments? And by the way, where did that mission's name come from anyway?

"The Mission" by David W. Brown takes a rather unorthodox look into the backstory of space missions by focusing on one in particular: the mission currently known as Europa Clipper. Brown documents how this mission came to be, the iterations and name changes it went through, the internal gyrations among program managers, budgeteers, scientists, and politicians, but most importantly, the people. Yes, while the spacecraft are usually the stars of the show, this expensive, shiny hardware is simply a reflection of a team of humans putting their mind toward a distant task -  while swatting off other humans who would seek to deter them from their task "

Full review

My STS-1 Story

Keith's note: I had an interesting job at STS-1 - I was Jerry Brown's advance man. I took a few days off from my job at Rockwell Downey where I stood inside of Discovery and Atlantis as they were being built to work for my old boss (I worked on his 1980 presidential campaign). The trip to the launch was insane. The area was still somewhat boarded up after the post-Apollo economic downturn and things were opening up for the shuttle era. So everyone was happy on the Space Coast.

At one point I: drove a large Chevy back and forth between the Mouse Trap and the old Holiday Inn (more than once) with Mercury and Gemini astronauts inside: tried to get Jerry to say hi to Christopher Reeve (he did, what a really nice guy he was); tried to kept Jerry away from pat Boone (failed); set up a dinner with our group and (then) Rep. Bill Nelson - who then stood us up; tried (in vain) to keep Pat Boone away from my boss in the V-VIP area; and spent a lot of time talking to James Michener. The son of the President of Mexico, Nichelle Nichols, astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand were in our traveling entourage.

Before the launch I also spent a lot of time walking around with George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg (who joined our merry bunch) looking at IMAX cameras and bothering Tom Brokaw while a very patient Judy Resnik answered questions. We then walked down A1A to Al Neuharth's Punkin Center. Raiders of the Los Ark premiered 15 June 1981. Lets just say I got a slight preview of coming attractions. I left them saying "keep doing what you are doing".

After the launch at Al Neuharth's house I let Alan Shephard and Buzz Aldrin use my motel key to scratch their signatures on the viewfinder of the Hasselblad camera that our photographer Jamie Stoughton used - his father was JFK's photographer (he also too the B&W photos of me and Jerry at the launch). An hour or so after the launch a helicopter flew over the house and dropped bundles of Florida Today newspapers showing pictures of the launch we just saw. The entire event was surreal.

Oh and then there was the landing. At the landing I offered Nastassja Kinski a donut on the bus up to Edwards and she acted insulted that I'd offer her junk food. At the VIP area John Denver and I were trying to figure out how to properly use the Canon A-1 cameras we had both just bought. And then the shuttle dropped like a brick onto the runway. I was 25. My feet never touched through ground through out this mission.

That is my STS-1 story.

Acting NASA Administrator Statement on Agency FY 2022 Discretionary Request

"Keeps NASA on the path to landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program. This goal aligns with President Biden's commitment to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all. With NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, as well as U.S. commercial partnerships with the human landing system and Gateway lunar outpost, we will send astronauts to the Moon and provide learning opportunities for future missions."

NASA's Fiscal Year 2022 Discretionary Request

"The President's 2022 discretionary request includes $24.7 billion for NASA, a $1.5 billion or 6.3-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level."

Keith's note: Note that the Trump era stock phrase "first woman and the next man" has been replaced with "first woman and the first person of color".

Keith's update: I just got this statement from former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

"I am extremely pleased to see that the Biden administration has increased funding for NASA in the FY2022 budget request. This budget continues the bipartisan Moon to Mars effort under the Artemis program. I urge the Senate to quickly confirm Senator Nelson so that he can assess and advocate for NASA requirements."



Keith's note: You may have seen some stories, tweets, and LinkedIn comments about Space Hero and their TV program that will send someone to the ISS. Stephen Colbert mentioned it on TV. They openly claim that NASA is a "partner" on their website. Well, I specifically asked NASA HQ Public Affairs about the overt statement at https://www.spacehero.org that NASA is a "partner" with Space Hero. NASA replied and declined to confirm that an agreement is in place between NASA and Space Hero - or that they are a "partner" - saying instead:

"You asked about Stephen Colbert's comments on the Space Hero release. For us, we're still working out the final details and agreements on the Private Astronaut Missions. We believe it opens the door to interesting opportunities for private industry and we look forward to seeing the final proposals that could lead to programs like a Space Hero. We know companies will be out there talking about their shows and once we have final agreements in place we will be able to talk more about NASA's participation."

Keith's update: But wait: there's more - and "its complicated".

My response to NASA PAO's original comment: "So the answer is that there is no agreement in place between NASA and Space Hero at the present time and that NASA is not officially a partner with Space Hero as is overtly stated on the Space Hero website - Yes?"

Answer: "It's not that simple. The agreement is in phases. There is an initial agreement in place, but there are other steps that need to be completed. We working toward a final agreement that makes it possible."

I am still waiting to find out if NASA is actually "partner" as is stated on the Space Hero website. NASA's lawyers get very finicky about people claiming that NASA is a "partner" and the use of the agency's logo to imply a formal relationship. Stay tuned.

Philip K. Chapman

NASA Mourns the Passing of Astronaut Philip K. Chapman

"NASA is saddened by the death of Apollo-era astronaut Philip K. Chapman. He was selected in August 1967 to be a member of Astronaut Group 6, who were primarily scientists rather than pilots. Chapman was the first Australian-born American astronaut."

EmDrive, a Supposed Fuel-less Engine, Is Knocked Down Again, Gizmodo

"Five years ago, NASA researchers experimented with an object called the EmDrive (or electromagnetic drive), a Y-shaped metal chamber in which, they reported, thrust could be produced without propellant. Such a contraption would refute core principles of physics as we know them and eliminate a huge barrier to deep space travel by nullifying the need to carry fuel. ... If that sounds too good to be true, well, other scientists had the same thought. Since that paper, published in the Journal of Propulsion and Power, plenty of research has come along explaining where EmDrive's original math went wrong."

Keith's note: This is what happens when a NASA field center (JSC) has a center director who funds a pet project that has not undergone adequate review - especially when the proposed work violates the laws of physics. You end up with quack science - just like the NASA Langley and NASA Glenn folks encountered with their equally bogus cold fusion research pet project (see "Quack Science: Why Are NASA Glenn and Langley Funding Cold Fusion Research?"). Don't get me wrong, NASA should be pushing the boundaries of the possible. But if you look at these warp drive and cold fusion things, NASA did not do due diligence in funding them. they were less than responsive when asked about them, and if you submit a media inquiry now they act as if they never heard of the projects that used scarce tax dollars.

- NASA JSC's Warp Drive Flops During Independent Tests, earlier post
- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive Gizmo, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post

Keith's note: C'mon Mike Kincaid. Both of these items were sent out today via NASA email lists. You just need to get someone in your office to subscribe. Then, when something like this is sent out that is education-related you tweet a link via @NASASTEM and 321,886 followers will be informed. Or you can follow more NASA and space education Twitter and social media accounts and simply retweet their links. How much simpler could this be?

Keith's note: Mike Gold is leaving NASA Headquarters to join Redwire Space. I am really sorry to see Mike go. While he (deservedly) got a lot of credit for the whole Artemis Accords effort, he played a role in taking on a lot of less glamorous tasks - many of which laid half baked and ignored for a long time and needed to be dealt with. I wish him well at Redwire - so long as they do not make him a redshirt.

Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX - Book Review

"This retro future we are now witnessing is happening in many companies in many countries. But it can be traced back to one company - and one person: SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk. With the notion of reusing rockets now accepted fact due to the Falcon 9, Musk is now building shiny stainless steel rockets in the middle of nowhere in Texas and blowing them up on a regular basis. And as soon as he can he plans to send people around the Moon and then to the surface of Mars. And when he does it will be in shiny aerodynamically-shaped spaceships from more than half a century ago.

The story of SpaceX - utterly synonymous with the story of Elon Musk - is the subject of Eric Berger's marvelous book "Liftoff". In a nutshell this book is a day-to-day diary of frequent near death corporate experiences, world-class MacGyvering, and engineers propelled by one part caffeine, one part RP-1, and one part dreams. This is all mixed in with in-your-face political jockeying, and a child-like drive on the part of Musk who read far too much science fiction as a kid and has the means to make it become reality. So he does."

NASAWatch Is 25

How It Started | How It's Going

Keith's note: NASAWatch turns 25 on 1 Apr 2021. It started as "NASA RIFWatch" on 1 Apr 1996 with this post "RIF at NASA In Summer 1997?". The website was first hosted on a Mac Classic II on a 128 kbps ISDN line in my old little condo in Reston, Virginia (see 20 Years Ago Today: The Seeds of NASAWatch). Here are a few things from those early days that are still online:

- Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, 1 Oct 1996
- NASA's Most Important Asset, Gerry Griffin, 31 December 1996
- Dan Goldin Comments to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) Meeting, 6/17/96
- Changes in Thinking At NASA November 29, 1996, PBS News Hour


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