May 2021 Archives

NASA Administrator Statement on President's FY 2022 Funding Request

"This FY 2022 budget, along with continued bipartisan support for NASA's goals and missions, will empower NASA and the United States to lead humanity into the next era in exploration - an era in which government and the private sector partner to take us farther than ever before - to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond - and to expand science, economic growth, and well-being here on Earth."

- FY 2022 Budget Summary
- FY 2022 NASA Agency Fact Sheet
- FY 2022 Mission Fact Sheets
- FY 2022 Congressional Justification NASA Budget Request
- Initial FY 2022 Budget Request Summary (released April 20, 2021)
- More NASA Budget information

Keith's note: No mention is made of the $10-11 Billion that Bill Nelson wants from the Infrastructure bill.

Committee Leaders Request GAO Review of Cybersecurity Risks at NASA

"Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), along with Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Don Beyer (D-VA), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Brian Babin (R-TX) sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a review of the cybersecurity risks to the sensitive data associated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) major projects and spaceflight operations."

Media Invited to Administrator's State of NASA Remarks on Climate, Artemis

"In his first address to the workforce, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will discuss the agency's plans for future climate science missions, the agency's plans for a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, and more during a State of NASA event at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 2. The event will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website."

GAO: NASA Lunar Programs: Significant Work Remains, Underscoring Challenges to Achieving Moon Landing in 2024

Marc's note: With the current budget process and timelines, does anyone seriously believe a human landing will happen in 2024 anymore?

"What GAO Found

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has initiated eight lunar programs since 2017 to help NASA achieve its goal of returning humans to the Moon. NASA plans to conduct this mission, known as Artemis III, in 2024. NASA has made progress by completing some early lunar program development activities including initial contract awards, but an ambitious schedule decreases the likelihood of NASA achieving its goal. For example, NASA's planned pace to develop a Human Landing System, shown below, is months faster than other spaceflight programs, and a lander is inherently more complex because it supports human spaceflight.

A message from the NASA Ames Center Director Eugene Tu


Ames family,

It's with a heavy heart and extreme sadness that I inform you of the passing of former Ames Center Director Dr. Henry (Harry) McDonald. Harry was the eighth center director, serving from 1996 to 2002.

Harry arrived at Ames with the charge from Administrator Daniel Goldin to take our center into the 21st century and leverage the fact that Ames is located in one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial regions in the world, Silicon Valley. Harry brought to Ames his decades of experience in both academia and industry. As an expert in computational aerodynamics, people at Ames knew and respected his work even before he arrived. Harry was extremely well regarded across Ames and NASA, and was a personal mentor to me and many of us in senior leadership here.

Lockheed Martin, General Motors Team-up to Develop Next-Generation Lunar Rover for NASA Artemis Astronauts to Explore the Moon


Lockheed Martin, General Motors Team-up to Develop Next-Generation Lunar Rover for NASA Artemis Astronauts to Explore the Moon, Lockheed Martin Corporation

"Lockheed Martin and General Motors Co. are teaming up to develop the next generation of lunar vehicles to transport astronauts on the surface of the Moon, fundamentally evolving and expanding humanity's deep-space exploration footprint."

"NASA's Artemis program is sending humans back to the Moon where they will explore and conduct scientific experiments using a variety of rovers. NASA sought industry approaches to develop a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) that will enable astronauts to explore the lunar surface farther than ever before. The LTV is the first of many types of surface mobility vehicles needed for NASA's Artemis program."

Marc's note: Who's missing in this announcement? Oh, right, NASA.

On Hiatus

Keith's note: I am taking a few days off. Marc will be checking in on things. See you next week.

The rivalry between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos already was intense. Now it's extending to the moon., Washington Post

"In a flier distributed on Capitol Hill last week, Elon Musk's SpaceX warned that legislation now being considered would reward "Jeff Bezos with a $10 billion sole-source hand-out" that would tie up NASA's moon plans and hand "space leadership to China." Bezos's Blue Origin space company countered quickly and forcefully. "Lie." "Lie." "Lie," it said of each of the allegations in SpaceX's paper, adding: "What is Elon Musk afraid of ... a little competition?" (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) The dueling documents are the latest point of tension in a long-simmering rivalry between two of the world's wealthiest men, billionaire "space barons" who have sparred on and off for years in their quest to privatize human space exploration. Musk and Bezos have fought over a launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center, battled over a patent related to landing rockets and argued over which of them actually pulled off that feat first."

Keith's note: Well worth reading. Stop and think about this for a moment, space commerce fans: Two billionaires who take turns being the richest person on Earth - are spending billions from a seemingly inexhaustible pot of money - to develop their own space infrastructures that eclipses - much of which NASA is incapable of doing. And now they are spending time and money squabbling about doing things in space with each one (and other billionaires too) trying to out-compete the other by doing even more in space - usually with their own money.

In a nutshell: space is now something that is worth the effort of the world's business leaders to use their finite work hours to trash talk about. Space is now much more important than it was a decade ago. The last time this sort of clash of the titans happened we ended up with vast train and airline systems, global communications networks, transnational manufacturing trade, etc. Just think of what lies ahead.

Keith's note: Last week I sent an email to NASA PAO - and the AAs for Communications and STEM Education - about last week's excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response to my questions today. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current attitude within NASA Headquarters with regard to education.

NASAWatch: "How does this event link to the Biden/Harris Administration's education strategic plans"?
NASA PAO: "Please reach out to the White House."

In his prepared statement to the House Appropriations Committee last week Bill Nelson said "strengthening of a diverse Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce that inspires future generations."

In his State of the Union Address President Biden said "To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That's why I've introduced the American Families Plan tonight, which addresses four of the biggest challenges facing American families and, in turn, America. First is access to a good education. When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world. It's, I believe, the overwhelming reason that propelled us to where we got in the 21st -- in the 20th century."

So ... despite the strong, clear, relentless push for education from the Biden/Harris Administration - with a education PhD on call 24/7/365 no less - and continuous statements by the NASA Administrator and other officials about the importance of education, NASA's answer is "Please reach out to the White House"? Seriously? Is no one at NASA paying attention to what the White House has been saying such that they can't even answer such a simple, basic question?

Keith's 4:12 pm EDT update: I just got the press release by email. It was sent out at 3:47 pm EDT. The Washington Post had an article posted at 12:21 pm EDT and then followed that with a tweet about this news while NASA said nothing whatsoever in advance. One would assume that this press release was in the can before the event happened. So why sit on it for 4 hours? Clearly these's a little favoritism going on here. NASA picks the preferred outlets while ignoring everyone else.

Alas, someone from PAO will try and tell me that this was a White House thing etc. etc. which is just silly DC inside the Beltway nonsense. The event aired on C-SPAN. NASA could have used that stream. But they did not. Will NASA TV show it? Doubtful. NASA reacts to news. They do not know how to strategically prepare, manage, and present it.

Biden Administration Invests $1 Billion To Protect Communities, Families, and Businesses Before Disaster Strikes, White House

"In advance of the President's visit, the Administration is announcing it will direct $1 billion for communities, states, and Tribal governments into pre-disaster mitigation resources to prepare for extreme weather events and other disasters, and the Administration is announcing the development of next generation climate data systems at NASA to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities. ... Develop and launch a new NASA mission concept for an Earth System Observatory. As the number of extreme weather events increases due to climate change, the ability to forecast and monitor natural disasters is integral for the nation's preparation, mitigation, and resilience. NASA's Earth System Observatory will be a new architecture of advanced spaceborne Earth observation systems, providing the world with an unprecedented understanding of the critical interactions between Earth's atmosphere, land, ocean, and ice processes. These processes determine how the changing climate will play out at regional and local levels, on near and long-term time scales."

Keith's 2:52 pm EDT note: Not a peep from NASA about any of this White House announcement. Baffling.

Keith's 21 May update: Earlier this week Bill Nelson suggested that NASA could solve all of its financial woes by getting $10-11 billion out of the new Infrastructure bill. Well, tick tock. Republicans balked at the overall bill so President Biden came back with a smaller counter offer. There will likely be more. It looks like there is a lot less money in the cookie jar - and R&D is no longer going to be a priority. As I mentioned below, Nelson's faith-based budget plan really does not have a Plan B in case the infrastructure windfall he hopes for does not happen. Well ... half a trillion dollars just disappeared from the infrastructure bill that we were all looking at when Nelson testified.

Here's what's in Biden's counteroffer on infrastructure, CNN

"The new plan would reduce the size of Biden's initial proposal, known as the American Jobs Plan, from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion and make four key concessions, according to the counteroffer document obtained by CNN. ... Research and development: $180 billion: This is another investment Biden is prepared to take off the table. His original plan called on Congress to invest $180 billion to advance US leadership in critical technologies, upgrade the US's research infrastructure and establish the US as a leader in climate science, innovation and research and development."

Statement of: The Honorable Bill Nelson Administrator, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations

"President Biden's FY 2022 discretionary funding request, transmitted in April, is $24.7 billion for NASA, an increase of more than six percent over the FY 2021 enacted level. This funding supports the programs summarized here and supports significant NASA contributions to Administration priorities."

Keith's 20 May note: In yesterday's FY 2022 budget hearing Bill Nelson touched on a lot of things but two stood out: the HLS (Human Landing System) contract and getting more money for NASA. His prepared testimony matches with what he said during questioning. But one thing that is wholly absent from this prepared statement is where he expects to try and get billions in new funds - billions and billions of dollars' worth.

Nelson decided that the way for NASA to get out of the fiscal mess it is in is to do a Hail Mary pass and dive into the new TBD Jobs Bill that the Administration is formulating and grab some dollars. He said "You can put $5.4 Billion into the jobs bill for the HLS that would be at the end of the day producing jobs. Another $200 million could go into that bill for spacesuits." He went on to say "We can also put $585 million on nuclear thermal propulsion."

Nelson then turned to another pot of forthcoming money - the multi-trillion dollar Infrastructure bill and said "Part of the jobs bill is infrastructure - there's another $5.4 Billion. Look at NASA facilities in your state (congressman) - there is aging infrastructure." Do the math. All told, it looks like he wants to raid the cookie jar for something like $10 - 11 billion. One would assume that OMB is on board with this plan.

Rep. Cartwright Holding Artemis Supplier and NEPA Small Business Industry Day with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Monday, May 24

"The event will focus on opportunities for small business contracting to support space exploration technology research and NASA's Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. An informational session will take place from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. ET, and matchmaking breakout sessions will be held from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. ET."

Keith's note: Where do I start?

1."first woman and the next man" is Trump lingo. "first woman and the first person of color" is Biden lingo. Gotta keep your memes and tag lines current, NASA. Just sayin'

2. Landing on the Moon "by 2024". Really? Who writes this stuff?

3. While the NASA OSBP Twitter account mentions this, if you go to the NASA Office of Small Business Programs website there is absolutely no mention of this event even though the NASA OSBP guy's smiling face is all over the graphic that came with this press release. (Update: they added something to their website late in the day).

4. This is a big deal for Pennsylvania, the Vice President's home state. So you'd think that the folks there would be psyched and all keyed up to support - or at least mention - this event. Nope. There is no mention at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce or at Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, etc.

5. There is mention of this event at @NASA, @NASAArtemis, @NASA_SLS, or @NASA_Orion on Twitter, or on the NASA.gov calendar, NASA TV schedule, NASA Artemis website, NASA commercial space website,

As you can see below NASA's Small Business team is not exactly up to date on the things that they are supposed to be up to date on. If they can't bother to be current with the important stuff then why should people take them seriously?

- That NASA SLS Small Business Report Is Out Of Date, earlier post
- SLS Spurred The Private Sector By Being A Bad Example, earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth NASA New Business Event, 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
- NASA Centers Can't Be Bothered To Mention The Economic Report, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post

GAO: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects in the development stage of the acquisition process continues to experience cost increases and schedule delays. This marks the fifth year in a row that cumulative cost and schedule performance deteriorated (see figure). The cumulative cost growth is currently $9.6 billion, driven by nine projects; however, $7.1 billion of this cost growth stems from two projects--the James Webb Space Telescope and the Space Launch System. These two projects account for about half of the cumulative schedule delays. The portfolio also continues to grow, with more projects expected to reach development in the next year. The majority of projects are managing the effects of the pandemic by using cost and schedule reserves--extra money or time set aside to accommodate unforeseen risks or delays. However, the full effects of COVID-19 are not yet known, and these reserves may be insufficient for several projects."

Keith's note: The nomination hearing for Pam Melroy to become Deputy Administrator of NASA is supposed to begin at 10:15 am EDT.

You can watch live here at Congress and here at NASA.

Testimony of Colonel Pamela Melroy Before The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation May 20, 2021

"NASA is unique because its programs are awe-inspiring and have the potential to fundamentally change humanity's understanding of the universe. NASA's role is collecting data about the Earth system and understanding the effects of climate change will be essential to those tasked with determining policy. If confirmed as Deputy Administrator, I will work closely with NOAA and ensure a robust program of Earth data collection and dissemination."

Everest +12

Keith's note: On 19 May 2009 at 6:15 pm EDT (20 May 4:00 am Nepal time) Astronaut Scott Parazynski stood on top of the world with piece of the Moon. My old, officially voided, damaged NASA badge (and a picture of astronaut Sunni Williams' dog Gorby) went along while Miles O'Brien served as our news anchor back in New York. Each of us has gone through a lot in the subsequent decade - some good, some bad. For Scott and I this adventure is as fresh in our minds as something that happened just yesterday. Its an adventure that just keeps on giving.

House Appropriations CJS subcommittee Hearing: FY 2022 Budget Request for NASA

Keith's note: This is the first time that NASA Administrator Senator Astronaut Bill Nelson faces Congress. There is no mention made of the hearing on the NASA TV calendar. But wait - the NASA TV site says it will air the hearing at 2:00 pm. So much for the accuracy of the NASA TV calendar I suppose.

Students to Sign and Speak to NASA, ESA Astronauts in Orbit, NASA

"Space-savvy students from across the nation who are deaf, blind, hearing and visually impaired and their mentors will have a unique opportunity this week to connect with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The Earth-to-space call will air live at 10:40 a.m. EDT Wednesday, May 19, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website."

Keith's note: I am certainly happy to see this. FWIW I spent a decade employed as a professional Sign Language interpreter - so I have a keen interest in things like this. in 2011 I noticed that the images and video of Robonaut-2 on the ISS certainly looked like it was signing or at least capable of doing so. So I posted a suggestion that they might program it to speak some ASL and reach an audience among taxpayers that is usually over looked. On 13 March 2012, Robonaut-2 said "hello world" in American Sign Language (ASL). I am told that the idea for this came from my suggestion posted on NASA Watch. How cool. Alas, the @AstroRobonaut tweet NASA PAO put out said "Did you catch that? I don't have a voice, but I sent you a message -- Hello world ... in sign language!" Um, news flash: hearing impaired people certainly have voices and they speak using ASL - so Robonaut-2 had a voice and was speaking. Just sayin'

Back in 2010 NASA was making frequent mention of Tracy Caldwell Dyson's knowledge of ASL. She even recorded a video in orbit. So I responded to an offer from NASA PAO for the media to interview her in orbit and offered to conduct the interview partially in ASL. I suggested that we'd tape my side at NASA. NASA PAO declined my request - no reason given. Oh well. BTW the first signed message from orbit was done by Bill Readdy on STS-42 in 1992.

FWIW if you sign while weightless in just the right way you can exert a gyroscopic effect on your body orientation. I did it on a ZeroG flight. I also signed a short phrase while pulling 6.2Gs in a centrifuge. A very, very short phrase.

Update: a video of the even is now online below:

Keith's note: The House Science Committee held a hearing today "NASA's Earth Science and Climate Change Activities: Current Roles and Future Opportunities". Given the importance placed by the Biden Administration on Climate Change - with NASA being a member of the Cabinet-level Climate Task Force - you'd think that NASA would be giving a hearing on climate change - with the head of its Earth Science Division and its Task Force representative - some serious visibility. Guess again. No mention on the NASA TV schedule. no media advisory or press release, nothing on the sparse NASA calendar. But they did tweet about the hearing but only an hour before it began. Gavin Schmidt made a point of tweeting as well. As for the NASA Office of Legislative Affairs - don't bother - all they have is the AA's biography and a picture.

So unless you saw these tweets this morning, you probably missed mention of this hearing. Now that the hearing is over, you'd think that NASA might post a link to the archived video and the testimony of its employees. Guess again. NASA PAO is a sleep at the wheel. So here's what you missed.

Statements:
- Chairwoman Johnson Opening Statement for Hearing on Earth Science and Climate Change Activities at NASA
- Chairman Beyer Opening Statement for Hearing on Earth Science and Climate Change Activities at NASA
- Babin Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on NASA Earth Science and Climate Data
- Karen M. St. Germain, Division Director, Earth Sciences Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA
- Gavin Schmidt, Senior Climate Advisor (Acting) and Director of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA
- Riley Duren, Research Scientist, Office of Research, Innovation, and Impact, University of Arizona; Chief Executive Officer, Carbon Mapper, Inc.
- Robbie Schingler, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Planet

NASA OIG: NASA's Cybersecurity Readiness, NASA OIG

"The Chief Information Officer (CIO) has struggled to implement an effective IT governance structure that aligns authority and responsibility with the Agency's overall mission. ... In FY 2020, the OCIO spent $278 million on IT, $74 million of which was budgeted for institutional cybersecurity. Separate from the OCIO, mission offices in FY 2020 invested $169 million on missionbased cyber management at locations around the country. ... It is important to note that the OCIO--housed at NASA Headquarters, responsible for the overall implementation of cybersecurity measures at the Agency, and controller of institutional systems--does not have oversight or control over cybersecurity decisions within the Agency's mission systems. ..."

"We found that NASA's ability to prevent, detect, and mitigate cyber-attacks is limited by a disorganized approach to Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Enterprise Security Architecture (ESA)--the blueprints for how an organization analyzes and operates its IT and cybersecurity--are crucial components for effective IT management. Enterprise Architecture has been in development at NASA for more than a decade yet remains incomplete while the manner in which the Agency manages IT investments and operations remains varied and ad hoc. Unfortunately, a fragmented approach to IT, with numerous separate lines of authority, has long been a defining feature of the environment in which cybersecurity decisions are made at the Agency. The result is an overall cybersecurity posture that exposes NASA to a higher-than-necessary risk from cyber threats. We also noted that NASA conducts its assessment and authorization (A&A) of IT systems inconsistently and ineffectively, with the quality and cost of the assessments varying widely across the Agency. These inconsistencies can be tied directly to NASA's decentralized approach to cybersecurity. ... "

Earlier posts on NASA IT Problems

Media Accreditation Open for Minotaur I Rocket Launch June 15 from NASA Wallops

"Media must apply for accreditation by 4 p.m. Friday, May 28, by sending a request to Keith Koehler at ..."

Keith's note: Yesterday I stumbled across a media advisory for media accreditation from NASA Wallops for a launch via someone's Facebook page. It is posted by NASA here: Media Accreditation Open for Minotaur I Rocket Launch June 15 from NASA Wallops and is featured on the NASA Wallops Home page.

NASA Wallops never sent the media accreditation notice to the news media by email - the way that they are supposed to. I sent Wallops PAO an email asking why I was no longer on their media list. I did some checking on another missed media advisory and found out that the NASA listserver is broken right now. OK, that happens. But that is not what is going on here.

Cliff Feldman

Clifford Feldman, longtime cameraman and producer for major TV networks, dies of covid-19, Washington Post

"Clifford's coverage of the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003 caught the eye of NASA-TV, which asked him to come in-house and reinvigorate how the space station shares its footage. In 2017, he led a project that displayed live location tracking of the eclipse across the country. Clifford received one of NASA's top civilian honors, the Exceptional Public Service Medal, for his work on the Total Solar Eclipse broadcast. He spent his final six months working on how to cover the landing of the Perseverance Rover on Mars. At 73, he had no plans to retire."

Keith's note: Cliff died in January. This article just appeared in today's Washington Post.

Keith's note: If you have been watching the space-themed photo ops fro the Oval office you have no doubt seen the Moon rock that President Biden likes to point at on the shelf. NASA can't get enough of that Moon rock love either. Bill Nelson was sworn in next to it.

Imagine what your average citizen might do to find out more about that Moon rock after seeing something on TV or on social media or reading about it in a news paper. They'd go to NASA.gov. There is no picture of the Moon rock and Biden - but look, there is a search box, let's use that. Guess what happens when you search for "Biden moon rock" and "Biden moonrock". Nothing. When you search for "Biden Moon" you get a bunch of search results from the time when Biden was vice president. Of course if you go to Google and search zillions of pictures show up instantly.

You'd think that someone in NASA PAO would have the smarts to adjust the search engine for obvious searches such that things that real people are interested in might show up in a search engine - especially when no obvious mention is made on the NASA home page. I know that they can do this since they have made adjustments to search results to feature items after some of my earlier posts. This might be a good one to feature.

Keith's note: These are some of the articles - with links to research publications - in this past week's NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #949 14 May 2021 (Space Life Science Research Results)

As you can see, this is a rather broad array of topics with direct relevance to this whole exploration of space thing that NASA talks about. And the folks who edit this resource put a quality list like this out every week. But unless you know precisely where to look for it - or read our SpaceRef website (which has the only complete archive going back to the 1990s)- you'd never learn about this NASA-related and sponsored research.

- Planetary extravehicular activity (EVA) risk mitigation strategies for long-duration space missions.
- Rad-Bio-App: A discovery environment for biologists to explore spaceflight-related radiation exposures.
- DNA microarray analysis of gene expression of etiolated maize seedlings grown under microgravity conditions in space: Relevance to the International Space Station experiment "Auxin Transport."
- Persistent deterioration of visuospatial performance in spaceflight.
- On the challenges of anesthesia and surgery during interplanetary spaceflight.
- Biomaterials for human space exploration: A review of their untapped potential.
- Revival of anhydrobiotic cyanobacterium biofilms exposed to space vacuum and prolonged dryness: Implications for future missions beyond low Earth orbit.
- Sharp changes in muscle tone in humans under simulated microgravity.
- Gravity threshold and dose response relationships: Health benefits using a short arm human centrifuge.

As I noted a week ago in "Biden Says #ScienceIsBack - But Its Hard To Find It At NASA" NASA makes no mention of this NASA-funded resource anywhere within its Human Space Flight or ISS Space Station webpages. CASIS ignores it too on the ISS National Lab website. In addition, various NASA pages that list research resources ignore it too. And when you tell NASA about this serious omission (which I have done multiple times over the years) they just do-not-care.

I used to just chalk this off to laziness on the part of the responsible offices at NASA. Its now starting to look like willful neglect. There was a Scientific Integrity Task Force meeting today. NASA is a member. The Biden Administration talks incessantly about #ScienceIsBack. Meanwhile, at NASA, #ScienceIsLost.

15 May 2021 Interview with CGTN Beijing

14 May 2021 Interview with CGTN Washington, DC

The White House Announces Scientific Integrity Task Force Formal Launch and Co-Chairs

"Convening for the first time on Friday, May 14, the 46-member Task Force - including 44 from across the federal government and two leaders from OSTP - will begin its work in responding to President Biden's call to action to strengthen federal science in his Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Members Statement on Scientific Integrity Task Force, House Science Committee

"We are encouraged by the Biden Administration's quick action to restore scientific integrity in our federal research enterprise and we look forward to the results of today's initial meeting of this critical taskforce. Science does not have a political agenda. When science is done well, it is because trained professionals can follow the data and subject their findings to rigorous peer review."

Keith's note: NASA is a member of the Task Force. I wonder who they sent to the meeting. NASA has made no mention of this committee since its formation. The Biden Administration talks about "whole of government" approaches however NASA does not seem to be interested in talking about that sort of stuff even though everyone else seems to be.

James Webb Space Telescope: Project Nearing Completion, but Work to Resolve Challenges Continues

"Since 2019, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project, one of the agency's most complex science missions, has made considerable progress toward launch--now planned for October 2021--by resolving technical issues, but some schedule and cost challenges remain. For example, in March 2021, NASA officials reported that launch vehicle anomalies that the project's international partners need to resolve will likely lead to a further delay to the launch date. The project has also used schedule reserves--extra time set aside to accommodate unforeseen risks or delays--faster than expected to address issues such as repairing and strengthening the sunshield."

Blue Origin's loss to SpaceX on the lunar lander contract may get Congress to do something it hadn't done before: Give NASA extra money, Washington Post

"Along with Dynetics, the defense contractor that also lost out on the contract, Blue Origin protested NASA's decision, saying the space agency "executed a flawed acquisition." It also took to Capitol Hill, lobbying its allies in Congress to force NASA to come up with the additional money and make a second award. On Wednesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) of Washington state, where Blue Origin is headquartered, came through, introducing legislation that calls for NASA to do just that. The legislation, which passed as an amendment to another bill, would authorize but not appropriate an additional $10 billion to the Artemis program through fiscal 2026. It also calls for NASA to pick a second winner for the contract."

Senate committee approves 2021 NASA Authorization, requires second HLS system, Space Policy Online

"This new NASA authorization bill would require NASA to fund HLS design, development, testing and evaluation "for not fewer than 2 entities" and gives the agency just 30 days after the bill is enacted into law to do it. How NASA could implement that in such a short time is a mystery. It went through a source selection process and chose a winner with documentation as to why. That decision is under protest at GAO, which must make a ruling by August 4. GAO can uphold the award or require NASA to change its decision. Either way, how an additional layer of congressionally-directed procurement action would affect that process is murky and could hang like a Damoclean sword over HLS, delaying its development and the timeline for putting astronauts back on the Moon. HLS is necessary for ferrying crews between lunar orbit and the surface."

Keith's note: The news that the White House wants to name former Rep. Kendra Horn to be executive Secretary of the National Space Council was not exactly thrilled a lot of people. In case you weren't paying attention, with Horn at the helm of the National Space Council, Big Aerospace and its allies would now be in control of NASA and the National Space Council. Her support for H.R. 5666 would have resulted in a government-only lunar program which would have favored the likes of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. Now that the whole Artemis thing is up for some re-thinking who knows where the National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group might decide to steer it.

It is still unclear as to the exact pecking order that will be in place with regard to space policy and PCAST (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) and OSTP (White House Office of Science and Technology), the National Space Council/Users Advisory Group; the National Security Council, and the Vice President's office. Right now it seems that PCAST/OSTP is on one side and interacts with the President, while National Space Council is on the other answering to the Vice President, while the National Security Council off in their own bubble interacting directly with the President. There are no straight lines in this management chart.

It seems from sources that main White House force behind the idea of appointing Kendra Horn to be Executive Secretary of the National Space Council is Cedric Richmond, Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. Richmond and Horn are personal friends, sources report. But why, you may ask, is he (or anyone else in the White House) making a previously apolitical position into a political one when much more qualified professionals could have been considered? I am now starting to hear doubts and disturbance in The Force emerge up within the White House/Space bubble that the Kendra Horn thing may not necessarily be a done deal after all. Not everyone inside the space bubble is happy about this. No formal press statement from the Vice President's office has been issued - yet. So stay tuned.

Keith's 3:42 pm update: it took NASA 5-6 hours after this major space weather event began to notice that it was happening - and that the Twitterverse had been buzzing about it al the while.

Keith's update: I tweeted "chair" when I meant type "executive secretary. Sorry. My phone woke me at 5:30 am and my fat fingers and sleepy brain made me type the wrong title. Horn was defeated after only one term in Congress. Horn is a big fan of coal and gas (She represented Oklahoma) and not so much of a supporter of dealing with climate change (Biden is), she used to work for the Space Foundation, and is known to be a big fan of Boeing.

Freshman Democrat runs as defender of oil and gas industry to hold Oklahoma district, Washington Examiner

"Horn said she does not support plans proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic leaders to eliminate carbon emissions from the power sector within 15 or 20 years through a clean electricity standard or mandate."

NASA Announces New Associate Administrator, NASA

"NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson announced Monday Robert D. Cabana, who has served as director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida since 2008, will serve as associate administrator effective Monday, May 17. Steve Jurczyk, who held the position since 2018, announced his retirement Monday."

Jurczyk Retires as NASA Associate Administrator, NASA

"Steve Jurczyk, who served as acting NASA administrator from Jan. 20 to May 3, 2021, announced Monday he will retire on Friday, May 14, after more than three decades of service at NASA."

Keith's note: Meanwhile talk in the hallways is that Bill Nelson wants everyone to call him "NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson". Why not include "congressman", "astronaut", and "Ballast" - his other three honorifics i.e. "NASA Administrator Senator Congressman Astronaut Bill "Ballast" Nelson."? Funny, no one ever referred to NASA Administrator Lt Commander Congressman Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator Major General Charlie Bolden, or NASA Administrator Hon. Secretary Sean O'Keefe. etc. Then of course we can expect to be hearing about NASA Associate Administrator Colonel Director Bob Cabana too. Meanwhile I suspect that Pam Melroy will be more interested in getting actual work done than titles.

Keith's note: Earlier today I posted NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up. I went back to to the CIO's data.nasa.gov page to see if their data collection is accessible to the public. I went to the "Technical Report Server" pull down menu and clicked on "Public Search" which sent me to NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server. I searched for "astrobiology" and the top search result is Data Sharing in Astrobiology: The Astrobiology Habitable Environments Database (AHED).

I then went back to the main page and used the "NASA Science Archives" pull down menu and clicked on "List of other NASA Science & Mission Data Archives" which sent me to to Data from NASA's Missions, Research, and Activities which was last updated 15 February 2017 (or 3 March 2020). There is no listing for the Astrobiology Habitable Environments Database (AHED). But I used Google and found that it is located here and was last updated 1 February 2021. According to the Internet Archive it existed as long ago as 25 November 2020 - before this CIO website update. The main contact for this page is someone in NASA PAO - not CIO - and the page just lists his name with no email link to report issues with this page.

If you go back to data.nasa.gov page and scroll down you will see "Other NASA Data Sites and Science Archives" which also includes a link to List of other NASA Science & Mission Data Archives (mentioned above.) This section also has a highlighted piece of text that blinks when you scroll over it (but does not link to anything) which says "submit an issue if you know of another NASA data site that should be included". I clicked on it again hoping to be able to report this omission but this is not a link - just a thing that changes color when you scroll over it. How useless.

Didn't anyone at NASA OIG do some link checks and simple sanity checks via Google before putting this site online? It took me longer to write this up than to find this error - and I was not even looking for an error. What other broken thinks lurk within this new data website from the crack NASA CIO web team?

- NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up, earlier post
- NASA Ignores Science Websites - Loves Rocket City Trash Pandas, earlier post

But wait: there's more:

If you look at the top of the Data.nasa.gov site whose real address is https: //nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/ it says "An official website of the United States government Here's how you know". Click on the link and it expands to say "The .gov means it's official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site."

OK, since you are trying to reassure people, this site's address ends with .io not .gov or .mil. So what does that mean? Answer: "The Internet country code top-level domain .io is assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory. The domain is administered by the Internet Computer Bureau, a domain name registry company which is a subsidiary of Afilias and is based in the United Kingdom" according to Google.

So, are taxpayers supposed to be reassured that this is an official U.S government website - and that they can upload data - when you openly tell them that it it uses an address run by a company in the UK licensed from the British Indian Ocean Territory "a British overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean halfway between Tanzania and Indonesia."? Doesn't the NASA CIO have a proof reader they can run this stuff by?

Keith's note: NASA PAO and SMD have repeatedly told me that the NASA Astrobiology program's Twitter account @NASAAstrobio and its official website would be unable to link to or follow my twitter account @Astrobiology (with nearly 22,000 followers) or its companion website Astrobiology.com which ranks in the 3rd - 4th search results for "astrobiology" on Google, Yahoo etc. - globally - and has for decades (since 1996 to be exact). If you go to Google and search for "astrobiology" and then click on news you will see that astrobiology.com totally dominates the first four pages of search results. A single NASA result only shows up on the fourth page. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that these Astrobiology efforts on my part are of some interest and value to the Astrobiology community and the public as a whole, yes?

But PAO and SMD say no, Keith. NASA websites and Twitter accounts can only follow other NASA sites, or select government agencies, or things wherein a formal relationship has been established with NASA, they say. And they claim that this official NASA policy - except they have never provided me with a copy of the actual, formally adopted/baselined NASA policy on such things. This is all very seat of the pants. They just throw some words in an email and hope that I will just go away. It is baffling that they'd not want to help their Astrobiology community gain access to news about NASA's own research results. But no. FYI they also ignore all of the scientific journals that publish NASA Astrobiology research. Why be useful, eh?

So ... I wondered if other official NASA accounts followed this official NASA web policy. So I went to the official NASA Marshall Twitter account @NASA_Marshall and look at the official NASA accounts that it follows. Some of my favorite official NASA Twitter accounts that @NASA_Marshall follows include: Rocket City Trash Pandas @trashpandas; JOXRoundTable @JOXRoundtable; Josh Dobbs @josh_dobbs1; Karen Kilgariff
@KarenKilgariff (TV/VCR Repair); My Favorite Murder @MyFavMurder; Melissa Joan Hart @MelissaJoanHart; NelsonMandela @NelsonMandela; Ellen DeGeneres @TheEllenShow; and Smokey Bear @smokey_bear. That's just from the first two pages (larger image).

Can someone at NASA PAO please explain this to me? Do you actually have a policy - one that is enforceable - and enforced? If so can you send it to me - but wait - please incude explanations as to why your own websites ignore that policy, if you don't mind. Oh yes: is there a waiver process that allows the Rocket City Trash Pandas to be considered equal to an official NASA account? I'd love to read the justification. Just wondering. Have a nice day.

Keith's note: In my 27 March 2021 posting about yet another mess at the Chief Information Office "The NASA CIO OpenNASA Website Has Expired - Further" (updated on 19 April 2021) I documented how out of date the NASA CIO's website on open data was. This is what it looked like on 23 April 2021 - showing an update of 2 April 2021 and a responsible official who left NASA in 2018. Well, it looks like they read NASAWatch and have been busy after allowing the site to sit out of date for several years. This happened mere days after this was mentioned on NASAWatch. What a coincidence.

The new site says "Data.nasa.gov is the dataset-focused site of NASA's OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer) open-innovation program. There are also API.nasa.gov and Code.nasa.gov for APIs and Code respectively. Open.nasa.gov is the central page for open-innovation sites and acts as as a home for the datanauts program, which is a public outreach program where members of the public work with NASA datasets." What is weird is that there is no longer a "Open.nasa.gov" page - unless you search the Internet Archive (as I did above). But NASA still refers to it as if it exists.

Interestingly if you go to the old address of https://open.nasa.gov/ you get redirected to a site labelled http://data.nasa.gov which instantly redirects you again to a site outside of NASA's fire walled web service https://nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/. https://nasa.github.io/ is the site hosting the new (old) open.nasa.gov. GitHub is a company. It is not a government agency, non-profit, educational institution.

NASA, Axiom Space to Host Media Briefing on Private Astronaut Mission, NASA

"NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station and will host a teleconference with media at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 10, to discuss more details about the mission."

Keith's note: Over the past several months NASA HEOMD PAO has repeatedly denied me access to ISS-related media events. In one case JSC and HQ PAO staff overtly lied to me. I am rather certain that neither PAO or Axiom really want me to be allowed to ask a question, so its not really worth the bother of trying to participate these days and I may just listen in instead. Here are some questions that come to mind however.

1. (Specifically) what NASA services will this Axiom Space mission use and how much are they paying NASA for them i.e. to what extent is NASA underwriting this mission or is Axiom Space playing the full (actual, real, non-discounted) cost of the services that NASA will provide? In other words will NASA use any appropriated funds to cover expenses incurred by NASA specifically due to the uniques aspects of this mission that the agency will not be reimbursed for by Axiom Space?

2. Is there any connection, overlap, or synergy between this privately funded Axiom Space mission and the $140 million that NASA is paying Axiom to do its commercial space station add-on work? That is, is anything that Axiom Space is doing with NASA funding going to support this mission, and if so, how much NASA funding is being spent to support this mission?

3. Is there any connection between the Axiom Space purchase of a flight from SpaceX and resale to the commercial passengers and Axiom Space's participation in the sale and swapping of commercial and Soyuz seats with NASA? If so how much NASA funding is involved and to whom is it being paid?

4. What ongoing NASA or other space agency activities on the ISS will have to be rescheduled to accommodate this Axiom Space mission and will Axiom Space be required to reimburse NASA or other agencies for these extra costs? If there is reimbursement involved how much will Axiom Space be paying and to whom?

5. Is the Dragon spacecraft new or used? Was the spacecraft being used for this mission specially built for Axiom Space or is it one built for use by NASA customers? Will any NASA crew missions to the ISS be affected by the addition of this Axiom Space flight? If so, how much work was required by NASA to readjust their schedule, how much did that additional effort cost, and how much of that additional effort was Axiom Space required to reimburse NASA for?

I might think of a few others. Feel free to post some suggestions in the comments section.

Keith's note: I was on MSNBC Sunday morning just after 6:00 am talking about the re-entry of the Long March 5 first stage.

Keith's note: I was on Deutsche Welle just after 7:00 pm EDT tonight talking about the impending re-entry of the Long March 5 first stage. I may be on at the top of the hour several more times tonight depending on when/where reentry happens.


7:00 pm EDT

11:00 pm EDT


Keith's note: I was on MSNBC Saturday morning on the "Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser Report" show around 6:50 am talking about the impending re-entry of the Long March 5 first stage.

Modernizing Science Websites, Thomas Zurbuchen

"More so than ever, our Science Mission Directorate (SMD) websites are the front-door to our worldwide community of enthusiasts and learners. Upon an in-depth analysis of our web presence, I believe it is time for us to elevate the way we communicate and enhance the breadth of our audiences using a focused approach on great content, and best-in-class optimization techniques. As will all of our communication activities, we will do this as one team, and driven by the desire to enhance the impact and inspiration of our science throughout. This is a core-element of our NASA Science strategy, which focuses deliberately on inspiration and communication."

Keith's note: I just became aware of this blog posting by Thomas Zurbuchen. This is music to my ears. As I have noted below (and for many years) NASA's web presence is out of date, broken, and counter productive - in the extreme. This is not what you'd expect Earth's pre-eminent space agency to put forth as its public face. As some of you may recall Jim Bridenstine set the process in motion exactly years ago. For the most part NASA has dragged its feet on the issue of improving its web and social media presence. Large portions of NASA simply ignored Bridenstine's direction in favor of their stove piped efforts. Now SMD is going to bite the bullet and fix things once and for all. Let's see what SMD does. Since SMD is responsible for roughly half of what NASA does in one way or another it could set an example for the rest of the agency. Oh yes: Kathy Lueders has noticed.

- Dysfunctional Science Websites At NASA, earlier post
- NASA Has Had A Year To Reorganize Their Web Presence. Did They?, earlier post
- NASA Just Can't Stop Doing Web Stuff Twice UPDATE: Three Times, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post

Keith's note: As a one-time actual space biologist at NASA I find posting of research data online to be one of the most important things NASA can do to show the value - and availability - of research done on the ISS. NASA has been generating research papers for more than half a century. One very useful resource is NASA Spaceline, a regular (now weekly) NASA-funded summary of research sponsored by and relevant to NASA life science research. Here is the latest issue issued today - we post it within minutes of its arrival by email on Fridays.

Look at the good stuff in this issue: "Changes in the optic nerve head and choroid over 1 year of spaceflight"; "Draft genome sequences of various bacterial phyla isolated from the International Space Station"; "The individual and combined effects of spaceflight radiation and microgravity on biologic systems and functional outcomes."; "Everything you wanted to know about space radiation but were afraid to ask"; and "Fusarium oxysporum as an opportunistic fungal pathogen on Zinnia hybrida plants grown on board the International Space Station". That's just this issue alone - space biology, space medicine, radiation physiology, plant physiology, genomics. Each issue is like a weekly textbook on space life science. There's even astrobiology and microgravity science included as well.

NASA has paid someone to produce this research summary for years. There have been gaps due to funding lapses and our SpaceRef website has the only complete archive online here going back to the 1990s. We have been posting it religiously over the decades. Currently you can find and subscribe to this summary at NASA: SPACELINE Current Awareness - NASA Task Book. You'd think that NASA would go out if its way to be certain that all of its space station and space life science research websites would feature it prominently.

Guess again. They ignore it - systematically. There is no mention of - or links to - Spaceline at:

- NASA PubSpace (a linkage to NIH PubMed which has now been dissolved)
- NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program
- NASA SMD Biological & Physical Sciences
- CASIS/ISS National Lab
- NASA Space Station Homepage
- NASA GeneLab
- Life Sciences Data Archive, NASA JSC
- Space Station Research Explorer
- International Space Station National Laboratory

Oh yes - most of the inter-related and duplicative resources listed above don't even link to each other either - but there is another story coming on that.

If you Google "NASA science" (a thing taxpayers might just do) you get sent to this Science Mission Directorate page. If you look at the "topics" menu you see no mention of "biology", "life science", "astrobiology" or "microgravity" - even though all of this research is now housed at SMD. If you click on "missions" you get nothing related to these topics. If you click on "for researchers" and then "Science Data" there is no mention of Spaceline or any of these topics either. And so on.

If you search NASA.gov you can't find any mention of Spaceline.

NASA apparently doesn't have any interest in making this voluminous reference to science accomplished on ISS and in related fields available - if for no other reason than to refute those who would say that nothing of value is conducted on the ISS.

Oddly as NASA ignores things like Spaceline, they do like to jump up and down and tell you about all of the amazing research they want to do on the ISS to solve all of humanity's problems. In recent budget briefings to Congress NASA mentions how they want to ramp up ISS utilization in the coming years. Of course this is a good idea since the potential of this amazing facility has yet to be tapped. And now they want to sell you a bunch of ISS replacements where more of this science goodness will be carried out - and wait there's more: they want to do some on the Moon and in a mini Lunar space Station called Gateway too. Alas, given the way that NASA handles the dissemination of research results such as Spaceline this will simply mean that more important and interesting research will continue to be ignored. But NASA still wants you to fall for all the science justifications they claim to have.

And then there is the dysfunctional relationship regarding space station utilization between CASIS/ISSNL, NASA's ISS Program Office, HEOMD and SMD - but I'll address that in a future posting.

Newsflash NASA: according to Team Biden #ScienceIsBack - even if you can't find it at NASA.


Larger image

In Biden's infrastructure moonshot, a big question: Can the nation still achieve its highest ambitions?, Washington Post

"NASA just landed on Mars and we had a big vaccine," said Costa Samaras, who worked as a transportation engineer in New York City and now studies infrastructure resilience at Carnegie Mellon University. "We can do big things -- but we should be doing big things in infrastructure, right?"

Keith's note: There it is. Washington Post - the main newspaper read in the nation's capital. Big color picture - front page, above the fold, third paragraph. If no one reads the rest of the story they see NASA mentioned by a regular citizen in terms of great things that America does. This echoes the frequent mention of NASA by President Biden and Vice President Harris as well as his choice of the phrase "Cancer Moonshot" to represent an effort he led as vice president to fight cancer. Joe Biden thinks about NASA a lot it would seem.

Biden thinks about reinvigorating the nation after the pandemic and not an hour goes by without official use of the word "infrastructure". His administration talks about a  "whole of government" approach to solving the issues facing America. NASA is just another Federal agency - one that is supposedly going to be part of this whole #BuildBackBetter thing that we hear Team Biden talk about.

NASA trips over itself with giggling enthusiasm every time NASA and space get mentioned by this White House - especially when the Oval Office Moon rock gets a photo op. That's natural and it feels good to see NASA get some face time at the White House - especially when the previous Administration used NASA as a cheap prop in a never-ending political campaign circus. 

However, what NASA does not do after it gets some love from Team Biden is show that it is part of a whole of government approach - not just to post-pandemic issues and #BuildBackBetter. NASA has a bad history of shunning external, shoulder-to-shoulder, cross-government efforts. It just wants the money to do the space thing - and see ya'. 

NASA could follow up these social and broadcast moments by having a developing effort in place that show just how NASA is or will be involved in #BuildBackBetter and its cousin #ScienceIsBack. There should be talking points that point out what NASA does alone or with other entities to get things rolling again:

Aeronautics - NASA is a go-to agency for aircraft design, safety, fuel efficiency, and overall air system health. It is the only top level agency with the word "aeronautics" in its name. With the airline industry suffering now more than ever it needs to work smarter. And the infrastructure that tracks aircraft will be called on more than ever to perform flawlessly. Add in drones for delivery and remote sensing and the skies will need as much smart thinking as they can get. NASA does those things. It even flies helicopters on another planet.

Earth Science - NASA is now a member of the Climate Task Force and is one of the world's leading developers and operators of satellites that monitor weather (which can damage infrastructure); Climate change (which needs to be characterized so as to modify infrastructure); and land use and agriculture (the underpinnings of our economy).

Information Science - NASA operates some of the largest supercomputers on Earth. They are often used to tackle problems related to climate and aeronautics but also issues beyond NASA's usual portfolio. Satellite communications and embedded computing can make existing and rebuilt infrastructure more efficient than it has ever been.

Space Technology - NASA not only covers every aspect of how we use space to conduct our daily lives. Indeed,  NASA invented much of that technology. You should know all of the talking points by now - from weather forecasting to communications.

Commercial Space - by embracing the use of the private sector to do things that were once only the responsibility of government, NASA has helped to spawn whole new industries to build, launch, operate, and benefit from space technology. Seed money used by NASA has now been amplified well beyond the specific services that were sought. ANd this has only shown signs of accelerating. This growing sector pushes the need for infrastructure and a  skilled workforce. 

Science - this Administration has an unabashed love affair with all things science. NASA is probably one of the few government agencies that has a hand in every conceivable aspect of science - both basic and applied. Its investments and results have led and will continue to lead to innumerable advances - and nothing works better than an infrastructure that is better than the one it is replacing.

And so on and so on. You know the drill. But NASA is not promoting any of this now. It is sitting on its hands hoping that they get a little love note from the white House once a week and some nice presents under the tree in the FY 23 budget pass back.

But there is one thing that is often neglected since NASA people seem to assume that everyone already gets it and that they can just sit back now and wait for a nice fat budget from Congress: Inspiration.

Inspiration - this is an intangible. It is not written down anywhere, It is not in a charter, not in a strategic plan, not on an action item list. But it is as real as anything else and often vastly more pervasive and influential than the specifics of what NASA does. Often times, as was quoted in the Washington Post today, when someone wants to express a place - a mindset - a team - an idea - a meme - wherein everything our nation does comes together in a spectacular way - a way that no one else can do - even if they lack all of the specifics - they always seem to cite NASA. NASA has a grasp on our collective imagination and a global branding reach that is beyond what NASA itself seems to understand. 

And yet NASA wastes that "reach" every single day. Its public affairs, education, and outreach infrastructure are badly managed, duplicative, incapable of adequately sharing NASA's good news, and often grossly out of step with the real world. Moreover, NASA does not have a strategic plan - one written so that actual humans can understand it. As such when you ask NASA what it does and why it does it, well, NASA really drops the ball here - at the precise place where the agency's value could be sold in a "value proposition" to someone.

NASA's ability to explain itself is ill-equipped to meet the challenge that the White House is issuing to the whole of government. It is time for NASA to get off its ass, fix what is broken, and use this utterly unique gift of innovation, exploration and inspiration to its fullest potential. Not just to fund space things - but to help show everyone in America - and also around the world - that there is a way out of this collective funk and that nothing is impossible, as our President keeps saying, and that NASA is part of the best that our nation has to offer.

If NASA does not take full advantage of this golden opportunity to reinvent itself so as to become relevant again I fear that it may never get another chance.

Sound On: FB Trump Ban, GOP Division, SpaceX (Podcast), Bloomberg

"Host Jack Fitzpatrick spoke to Boyd Matheson, former Chief of Staff for Senator Mike Lee, and Keith Cowing, astrobiologist and editor of the blog SpaceRef."

Keith's note: This aired on Wednesday. My piece starts at 25:30

Volcanoes On Mars Could Be Active, Raise Possibility of Recent Habitable Conditions, PSI

"Evidence of recent volcanic activity on Mars shows that eruptions could have taken place within the past 50,000 years, a paper by Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist David Horvath says. ... A volcanic deposit such as this also raises the possibility for habitable conditions in the near surface of Mars in recent history, says Horvath. "The interaction of ascending magma and the icy substrate of this region could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life fairly recently and raises the possibility of extant life in this region."

Volcanoes on Mars Could be Active, Raising Possibility that the Planet was Recently Habitable, University of Arizona

"Evidence of recent volcanic activity on Mars shows that eruptions could have taken place in the past 50,000 years, according to new study by researchers at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Planetary Science Institute. ... The volcanic deposit described in this study, along with ongoing seismic rumbling in the planet's interior detected by InSight and possible evidence for releases of methane plumes into the atmosphere detected by NASA's MAVEN orbiter, suggest that Mars is far from a cold, inactive world, Andrews-Hanna said."

Keith's note: Conditions that might support extant life on Mars? Wow. That's Astrobiology! But do you see ANY mention by NASA's Astrobiology program? No. They either do not know how to tell everyone or they do not care to. Hard to tell. But NASA SMD ignores this stuff too. No mention is made on the SMD science news page even though NASA missions Mars InSight and Maven were involved. And of course, the SMD Science page does not even list "Astrobiology" as a topic so it is not surprising that they ignore this too.

NASA Seeks Partners for the Astrobiology Science Conference, NASA

"The Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) is a community-organized conference that provides a forum for reporting on new discoveries, sharing data and insights, advancing collaborative efforts and initiating new ones, planning new projects, and educating the next generation of astrobiologists."

Keith's note:NASA made an important Astrobiology program announcement yesterday about an opportunity for external organizations and companies to partner with NASA on upcoming Astrobiology Science Conferences (AbSciCon). You would think that the Science Mission Directorate, Its Planetary Science Division, and the Astrobiology Program would want the widest possible distribution to the Astrobiology community. SMD did send out an email. But wouldn't you think that the Astrobiology program itself would use its own mailing list, its Twitter account @NASAAstrobio (with 779,000 followers!) and its home page to further promote this opportunity. Guess again.

It has been 24 hours but nothing has been mentioned by the NASA Astrobiology program. Update: they added it to their home page - but 26 hours after the notice was issued by NASA.. And there is no mention on the AbSciCon 2020 home page itself. There is nothing on the NASA Science home page either. Of course the SMD page does not even mention "Astrobiology" which is odd given that NASA refers to the $1 billion+ "mobile astrobiologist" that it has on Mars (Perseverance). President Biden and Vice President Harris mention this rover a lot. You'd think that NASA would pull out all the stops to make sure that its mission and underlying rationale were at the top of their PR to do list.

By contrast Astrobiology.com had the notice posted and tweeted via @Astrobiology within minutes. It is as if no one at SMD cares about Astrobiology any more - starting with the management of the Astrobiology program itself. If they don't care then why should anyone else?

As you can see from these posts in just the past several years, NASA's Astrobiology Program neglects itself.

- NASA Tries To Explain Its Astrobiology Shyness, earlier post
- NASA's Astrobiology Program Works Hard To Ignore Itself, earlier post
- NASA Leads In Astrobiology. It Needs To Act That Way., earlier post
- NASA Can't Figure Out What Astrobiology Is - Or Who Does It, earlier post
- Getting Serious About Astrobiology, earlier post
- More NASA Astrobiology News That Ignores NASA's Astrobiology Program, earlier post
- NASA's Science Mission Directorate Has An Issue With Certain Words, earlier post
- NASA's Big Astrobiology Mission To Europa Makes No Mention Of Astrobiology, earlier post
- NASA Makes Big Astrobiology Mission Announcement Without Saying "Astrobiology", earlier post
- NASA Leads The World In Astrobiology. Wow, Who Knew?, earlier post
- 3 New Life Forms Discovered On The Space Station. NASA Yawns In Response., earlier post
- Sadly NASA Forgets Its Most Amazing Missions, earlier post
- That Time NASAWatch Scooped The Water On Mars Story, earlier post
- This Is Not The Planetary Protection Headline That NASA Needs Right Now (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: In case you have not noticed the big thing on President Biden's agenda for Congress these days is INFRASTRUCTURE. A lot of NASA is falling apart. Various NASA technologies could be very useful in assessing the state of America's infrastructure. So ... I went to NASA.gov to see what NASA is doing. Nothing about infrastructure on the home page. So I used the NASA.gov search engine to see what infrastructure goodness NASA has in store when the Biden folks ask how NASA is going to help.

The top search result I got is for a NASA YouTube video titled. "Genomicic Sequencing of Outbreaks. Infrastructure, Confinement, Immune Suppression, Space Has It All". For starters the proper spelling of the key word in this title is "genomic" not "genomicic". Second of all this video has nothing to do with 'infrastructure' in the sense that the White House is interested. Third: you'd think that someone at NASA would read the newspapers and get the idea that maybe the Biden folks might be interested in infrastructure across the Federal government. Alas, NASA has never done that "whole of government" thing very well. Why start now?

NASA Names New Chief of Staff - Susie Perez Quinn

"As chief of staff, Quinn will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of NASA Headquarters. She will work with Nelson and senior NASA staff to shape the strategic direction of the agency, while overseeing and articulating various policies and programs."

Keith's 1 May note: Sources report that Susie Perez Quinn is coming to NASA to work on the 9th floor for NASA Adminstrator Bill Nelson. There will be more Nelson alumni showing up for work - a few already work at NASA - Press Secretary Jackie McGuinness and NASA Legislative Affairs AA Alicia Brown.

- @susie_quinn (Tweets are protected)
- 2017 Wall of Fame Inductee: Susie Perez Quinn, USF
- Susie Perez Quinn, LinkedIn

Keith's note:
As you may recall NASA selected the SpaceX Starship-based proposal for the Human Landing System (HLS). Although work at SpaceX on HLS is on pause pending the Blue Origin/Dynetics protest evaluation, this test of SN15 should be considered as a test of NASA's HLS. Let's see if NASA bothers to make mention of this successful test. Or not.

Keith's note: There's now an official howdy video from Bill Nelson to everyone at NASA. Note the soothing infomercial background music that is apparently designed to reassure you.

Keith's note: This interview will air on the BBC World Service program "World Business Report" which is distributed on air and online - globally - to a weekly audience of ~ 300 million. It will air in the coming days.

Vice President Harris Swears in NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson, NASA

"As part of the swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Harris and Nelson were joined via video conference by Jim Bridenstine, who preceded Nelson as administrator, and in-person by Charles F. Bolden, who served as administrator from 2009 to 2017. Nelson's family and Pam Melroy, nominee for NASA deputy administrator, were guests at the ceremony."

Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer Moves To New Role, NASA

"Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, is stepping down from his position leading the center to focus more time on his health and family in light of a cancer diagnosis. "Mark has had an exceptional impact on this agency, leading the nation's key human spaceflight programs for decades. Under Mark's leadership, Johnson has moved the United States into a new era of human space exploration," said NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson. "We're fortunate to continue to have Mark and his decades of expertise serving the agency in his new role as senior advisor to the associate administrator."


Keith's note: NASA Program Executive Ezinne Uzo-Okoro is moving to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) where she will be Assistant Director of Space Policy.

- Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, LinkedIn
- ezinneinspace, Twitter

Keith's note: According to a media briefing with senior Administration officials at the White House today Bill Nelson will be sworn in on Monday by Vice President Harris - with some "special touches". The White House is in the process of searching for an executive secretary for the National Space Council. No word on when that will be announced. The White House will also be keeping the National Space Council's Users Advisory Group. VP Harris will be chairing the NSpC and will be meeting with the UAG and stakeholders as well.

Otherwise the guide word is "continuity" with regard to the overall space policy left in place by the Trump Administration -- with a focus on Biden/Harris priorities: peaceful norms of behavior in space; peaceful exploration with allies and partners; STEM education;
climate change; diversity in the workforce; regional economic development: and
ensuring cyberspace security in space activities.

According to one White House official in the briefing the Vice President's approach is going to be "to be to get the job done and not focus on big displays" which would seem to be a reference to the campaign style stunts that the Trump Administration liked to morph various space-themed meetings and events into - often with a reduced focus on actual substance.

- Sen. Bill Nelson Statement on National Space Council, NASA


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