June 2021 Archives

NASA Notice of availability of inventions for licensing: Human-Powered Ventilator

"The following application filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office under the Patent Cooperation Treaty is available for licensing: NASA Case No.: MSC-26813-1-PCT, Human-Powered Ventilator. The patent rights in this invention has been assigned to the United States of America as represented by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any prospective license will comply with the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 209 and 37 CFR part 404."

Inside NASA's Pandemic Response Campaigns

"Engineers at Johnson are offering a simpler ventilator solution, primarily for use in developing countries. As the pandemic unfolded, engineers who had developed a ventilator for use on the Orion spacecraft started updating it. The device is similar to human-powered ventilator bags used in ambulances, but those are squeezed by hand, which becomes tiring quickly. Johnson's ventilator is powered by larger muscle groups in the arms or even legs. It can be used to keep a patient alive for hours, perhaps while waiting for a bed to open up, said Kris Romig, technology transfer officer at Johnson."

Keith's note: Why isn't NASA talking about this? This is rather cool. It is 3-D printed, was designed for space but adapted for use on Earth. And it can be used in a wide array of locations including those with little or no resources - by the people who live there. Not only does it demonstrate the value of space technology's earthly applications it is also a source of potential soft power for NASA.

Imagine a remote village where this thing shows up with a NASA logo on the box - and their first interaction with America is via its space program. But wait: not so fast. NASA requires that you apply for a license to use this. Life saving inventions like this - developed at American taxpayer's expense - should be provided to anyone, anywhere with no constraints - especially as a global pandemic continues to rage in the places where people are often least capable of responding.

Oddly this release came out the other day - why is it that NASA requires a licensing process for the human powered respirator - which costs money and time to navigate - when the device could be saving lives as soon as someone uses a 3D printer to make it? Why doesn't NASA waive the patent rights as they have with all these other things and post the 3D printer file on GitHub or wherever they post the free stuff they share? I'd ask NASA PAO but they no longer answer questions. According to the Spinoff 2021 document (pages 67-68) there is some sort of effort to make it more widely available - but why go through this complicated process when you can simply post the file now?

NASA Software Benefits Earth, Available for Business, Public Use

Many of NASA's computational innovations were developed to help explore space, but the public can download them for applications that benefit us right here on Earth. The agency's latest software catalog has hundreds of popular programs, as well as more than 180 new ones, all available for free download. "From operations here on Earth to missions to the Moon and Mars, software is integral to all that NASA does," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "The good news is this technology is available to the public for free. The software suited for satellites, astronauts, engineers, and scientists as it is applied and adapted across industries and businesses is a testament to the extensive value NASA brings to the United States - and the world."

NASA Administrator Names Johnson and Kennedy Center Directors

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has named Vanessa Wyche director of the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Janet Petro director of Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Wyche has served as the acting director of Johnson since May 3 and Petro has served as the acting director of Kennedy since May 17."

NASA Named Best Place to Work, No. 1 for COVID-19 Response

"For the ninth consecutive year, the Partnership for Public Service has ranked NASA as the Best Place to Work in the Federal Government among large agencies and, new for 2020, has also ranked NASA No. 1 among large agencies for its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The rankings, announced Tuesday, reflect NASA's focus and dedication as it pursues missions, including sending humans farther into space than ever before. In 2020, the agency saw its highest employee satisfaction results since this index was developed."

GAO: Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, GAO

"In April 2020, GAO identified 12 priority recommendations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Since then, NASA has implemented one of those recommendations when it calculated the Space Launch System program's developmental cost growth using a baseline adjusted to reflect the scope of work planned for its first mission.

GAO also closed two recommendations as not implemented. Since GAO's June 2019 recommendation to update the Orion crew vehicle's cost estimate to reflect the April 2023 baseline launch date for the first mission to carry crew, that mission's launch date has been delayed. There is no longer an opportunity for NASA to take action on this recommendation now that the program no longer expects to launch in April 2023.

The second recommendation, closed as not implemented, was for NASA to develop and maintain a contingency plan for ensuring a presence on the International Space Station until a Commercial Crew Program contractor was certified. NASA took actions to maintain a U.S. presence on the space station and provided GAO periodic updates on considerations for maintaining a continued presence, but did not develop and maintain a contingency plan. NASA certified a Commercial Crew program contractor in November 2020. As a result, there is no longer an opportunity for NASA to take action on this recommendation."

Keith's note: Bill Nelson was on CNN just before 8:00 pm EDT Sunday night to talk about the UAP/UFO report released by the Pentagon Friday evening. Nelson said "I have seen the unclassified and classified version of the report. It says what we thought. We do not know what the answer is to what those navy pilots saw. I have asked our scientists if there is any kind of explanation. I am awaiting their report. My feeling is that there is clearly something there. It may not be extraterrestrial. But if it is our adversaries' technology then we should be concerned." Nelson then said "we have a program at NASA called the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence" and concluded by saying "When we launch James Webb Space Telescope it will peer back in time and we will learn more."

Newsflash: NASA does not fund SETI - nor does NASA have a program by the name "Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence". Someone needs to brief Nelson a little more efficiently the next time he discusses this topic on TV. Just sayin'.

- That UAP/UFO Report Is Out. No Aliens. Yawn., earlier post
- NASA Has No Idea What To Do About The UAP/UFO Report, earlier post

Keith's update: Bill Nelson makes gaffs. And he will make more. Other than irksome Keith, no one else probably cares about this one. It was aired on a Sunday night, so no one saw it - and everyone is now focused on Bill Barr's comments about the 2020 election in a new book. But Nelson has said that his 'scientists' are working on this so some people are going to start asking when that report is due, what the scientists found, can we see the report, etc.

So ... is that upcoming NASA UAP report going to be another nothing burger like DoD's, or, if I had a say, a report that tackles the big questions directly regarding life in the universe using existing NASA efforts, and uses some judo to justify a more robust Astrobiology program - with some SETI and Technosignatures research. But that the focus, as Seth Shostak says, should be mostly outward where more life is to be found - more than downward. The current NASA Astrobiology program arose in a similar fashion in 1996/1997 on the heels of the ALH84001 "Mars Meteorite" putative Mars fossils announcement. I was there in all of the organizing meetings. People in attendance saw a chance to seize the moment and utilize the energy that surrounded the ongoing discussion - and they did so successfully. Alas, NASA's current Astrobiology program and its larger advisory structure is not up to a focused, strategic effort such as the one that built NASA's Astrobiology program in the first place. So ... never mind.

Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, DNI

"The UAP documented in this limited dataset demonstrate an array of aerial behaviors, reinforcing the possibility there are multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations. Our analysis of the data supports the construct that if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved they will fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall "other" bin. With the exception of the one instance where we determined with high confidence that the reported UAP was airborne clutter, specifically a deflating balloon, we currently lack sufficient information in our dataset to attribute incidents to specific explanations."

Keith's note: They waited until late on a Friday afternoon to dump this report. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The UAP Story: The SETI Institute Weighs In

"The observations to be discussed in the report - photographic, witness testimony, and radar - are sometimes conflated with a research discipline known as SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The latter involves looking for non-natural radio or light signals coming from deep space, as well as observations that might uncover non-natural phenomena (so-called "technosignatures") in the course of conventional astronomical research. Since the UAP analysis and SETI research have a region of overlap - the possibility of alien beings - there is frequent confusion by the public and media regarding the degree to which they are similar. We hope to mitigate this lack of understanding by pointing out differences in the assumptions, data, and verification methodologies for both UAPs and SETI."

Keith's note: On Wednesday I listened to Administrator Bill Nelson testify before a Congressional Committee. During the course of the hearing every single member chimed in about the importance of NASA to their state (and vice versa) and twisted Nelson's arm for a site visit. As the hearing wore on it was obvious that this was all transactional - they people who give things to NASA want things from NASA. That's just fine if your representative from your space state is on the committee. But what happens when a community, or a sector of the economy, or an underserved community has no one to champion their cause? No arm twisting. And if NASA is focused on keeping lawmakers happy, they are not going to spend a lot of time on a bunch of people who do not matter in the whole transactional legislative dance.

We've all heard the phrase "flyover country". Some accuse east and west coast elites of using the term derisively to refer to the 3 hours of boring terrain they have put up with as they fly over it to get to their destination. Others use it as a self-identifier or even a term of endearment to suggest that they are ignored by political leaders of both parties who have a different set of concerns than those that they have to deal with every day.

Much of what is "flyover country" is rural agricultural in nature. No rocket ships are built there. NASA never visits. But people in flyover country hear about rich people wanting to spend millions to fly in space while they and their neighbors back on Earth are suffering through post-pandemic economic troubles. Newsflash: most people out in the real world i.e. not in the space bubble have not spent a whole lot of time studying the differences between "commercial" vs "civilian" or "government" space - so all of this talk of rich people in space is synonymous with "NASA". And what has NASA done for them lately? Oh and now they want to spend billions to go back to the Moon. Didn't we already do that?

One would think that someone at NASA is thinking about how to work through this problem and make the agency more relevant to the real world who pays the taxes that buy all of the rocket fuel. Of course NASA and the space economy is immensely relevant. But NASA has done such a poor job that you'd never know this. So why not pick something that NASA does that easily resonates with everyone - something that they personally experience - and learn from - and enjoy - and derive benefits from? I have a thought: drones. To be specific: Drones on Mars.

Report: NASA Should Update Astronaut Radiation Exposure Limits, Improve Communication of Cancer Risks

"The report recommends that NASA proceed with its proposed single standard dose limit for all astronauts, which is based on "risk of exposure-induced death" (REID) calculations for a 35-year-old female (who is considered most susceptible to radiation-induced cancer risk). Currently, men and women astronauts have different allowable doses of radiation, based on their reported relative susceptibilities to different radiation-induced cancers. This means that women astronauts currently cannot fly as many days in space because they would reach the radiation limit sooner. Applying the same dose limits to all astronauts would create equality of opportunity, but the agency should also consider the trade-offs. A single standard for men and women would mean some astronauts, primarily women, would be subject to greater risk by the time they reach the exposure limit."

Keith's note: This tweet was posted around 1:00 pm EDT on 23 June. The launch is scheduled for the next day barely 19 hours away. NASA Wallops PAO never sent out a media advisory or a press release. I know this to be a fact since Keith Koehler at Wallops PAO recently confirmed that I am on the Wallops media list - so of course he'd have sent me one if there was one to send, right? Note that the tweet has a link to a youtube webcast - but no mention of anything at the Wallops website describing what the mission is about.

But if you go to the Wallops website - surprise surprise - there is a posting from 17 June 2021 - more than a week ago. Student Experiments to Blast Off from NASA Wallops. Ah, a student experiment. Does the NASA STEM Engagement office website or its Twitter account @NASASTEM mention this launch? No. NASA.gov has a Launches and Landings webpage devoted to upcoming agency launches. Does it mention this launch? No. NASA Wallops is managed by NASA Goddard. Doe you see any mention of these launches - managed by Goddard - mentioned by Goddard? No. NASA Langley is NASA's sister center in Virginia. No mention there either. But this is not surprising since all NASA field centers act as if they are the only NASA field center and rarely mention any other center (or NASA HQ for that matter).

House Science Committee Hearing: A Review of the President's Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal for NASA
10:00 am EDT
Witness: Bill Nelson

Watch live - House - NASA

Congress isn't happy about SpaceX's lunar lander and may vent this week, Ars Technica

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will appear at a committee meeting of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Wednesday, and the meeting could be full of intrigue when the subject of NASA's Artemis Program to land humans on the Moon and SpaceX comes up."

Keith's note: I have asked NASA multiple times over the years what their plan is in the eventuality that life - past or present - is discovered off of our planet. Based on previous NASA announcements such as the ALH84001 Mars meteorite, water on Mars in 2000, etc. NASA has never had a plan and as best I can determine it still has no plan. They just keep their heads down and wing it if the spotlight falls on them. Like I said, I have asked for their plan. No one ever provides it.

Just to be clear: I do not think that these UAP/UFO things are from another world. I never have, But I do think that humans are deeply interested in the possibility of life elsewhere - and that they want NASA and other organizations to search for it. This upcoming UFO/UAP report and its findings (or lack thereof) would clearly be the responsibility of NASA's astrobiology program - you know, the people looking for evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. One would think that this would be a teachable moment - about how science works, what the public is interested in, etc. Guess again.

Alas, if you go to the official NASA Astrobiology website at http://astrobiology.nasa.gov the top five stories on that website include two about cartoons/coloring books, one about a memo written 1.5 years ago, one about a story about hot springs from January 2021, and one about an abstract due date notice from February that lists a April 2021 due date. So, nothing to see there. The obvious place to go next is the main SMD website at https://science.nasa.gov. This site makes no mention of this impending report. Nor does it even mention "astrobiology", so there seems to be little interest in any of this whole "life in the universe" stuff.

GAO: Weapon Systems Annual Assessment Updated Program Oversight Approach Needed - Excerpt: National Security Space Launch (NSSL)

Keith's note: The ULA Vulcan program has contracted with Blue Origin to provide its BE-4 rocket engine. This BE-4 engine is not referred to by name in this report, but it is what is referred to in this report.

"A U.S. produced rocket engine under development for ULA's Vulcan launch vehicle is experiencing technical challenges related to the igniter and booster capabilities required and may not be qualified in time to support first launches beginning in 2021.
A joint program office and ULA team is tracking these challenges, and NSSL officials told us Vulcan remains on track to support first launches and certification in 2021. However, if ULA cannot complete engine qualification before the 2021 flight certification, the program might continue to rely on ULA's Atlas V--which uses engines manufactured in the Russian Federation--to support ULA's 2022 launches, despite a nearly $2.9 billion investment in new launch system development. SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles are certified to conduct national security launches. The Falcon Heavy is undergoing some modifications to fully meet launch requirements and is on track to support its first mission in May 2021."

Book Review: "Floating in Darkness: A Journey Of Evolution" by Ron Garan

"Ron Garan had to overcome quite a lot to become an astronaut - a passion he had nurtured since childhood. Once he achieved it, space travel had its greatest effects upon him as he returned to Earth, reborn as a humanitarian. I must confess that I tend to be closer friends with those astronauts who see their space travels as the beginning of who they they have become as persons - and not the pinnacle of their life's achievements.

In this endlessly personal memoir of how he came to be a human looking down upon his home from space, Ron Garan gives an unusually frank look as to the optimism, self-doubt, motivations, let downs, and joyous events that somehow conspired to deposit him in orbit. Deeply religious, Garan has a rather cogent context within which to place his life's journey and what purpose has been bestowed upon his life."

My Father's Day Story

That Time Wernher von Braun's Rocket Tried To Kill My Father

Keith's note: I thought Father's Day might be an appropriate time to repost this story.

"As best I can collate the facts, on 18 March 1945, a V-2 missile was launched from Statenkwartier in The Hague in occupied Netherlands at 9:25 am by Battery 485. It was one of the last V-2 launches before Germany lost the ability to use these weapons. As the rocket sped away from the surface it reached an altitude of over 50 miles - perhaps more - the edge of space. After a flight time of 5 minutes or so it fell from space with a vengeance and slammed into London at nearly 2,000 miles per hour. It hit near the Marble Arch Underground station - specifically at Hyde Park (near Speakers Corner) in Westminster. The blast created by the impact formed a crater 60 feet across and sent a supersonic shockwave outward. An instant later and several blocks away the shockwave picked my father up out of bed in his room above a pub and threw him through a set of glass doors. He had no warning that this was going to happen. No one ever did. While he was badly cut up, he was otherwise all right - physically. My father had been invited to go out for beers with his roommates - but he was broke - so he went to bed early instead. He never saw his roommates again. My father was 22 at the time."

Statements on Pam Melroy's Senate Confirmation as NASA Deputy Administrator

"It's an honor to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA Deputy Administrator, and I am humbled by President Biden and Vice President Harris' confidence in me," Melroy said. "I look forward to returning to the NASA family and working with Administrator Nelson to ensure the United States continues to lead in space and beyond - exploring the wonders of the universe, expanding the Earth science research critical to combatting climate change, unlocking scientific discoveries that will change the world as we know it, and inspiring the next generation of discoverers and dreamers."

Keith's note: I was part of a panel with James Head, Amitabha Ghosh, and Yang Yuguang.

Keith's note: This is audio that I pre-recorded for CGTN and is being aired today. Charlie Bolden and Leroy Chiao are also to be heard. I am going to be part of a panel with James Head, Amitabha Ghosh, and Yang Yuguang just after 7:00 pm EDT on CGTN.

SpaceX Launches Military Satellite on Reused Rocket, Bloomberg (Video)

"Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carries a U.S. Space Force satellite into orbit from its liftoff in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Bloomberg's Ed Ludlow and NASA expert Keith Cowing join "Balance of Power."

Keith's note: In addition to this BBC interview I did at 12:00 am EDT, I pre-recorded an interview with CGTN that should air on Thursday during the day. Just after 3:00 pm EDT on Thursday I will be on Deutsche Welle - live - to talk about the mission. Then I will be back on CGTN at 7:00 pm EDT on a live panel discussion about the mission.

Keith's note: Jim Banke just pointed out this transcript of an NBC interview with Putin wherein he talked about space and NASA quite a bit. This is a translation so it is not precise. But it does show the pattern that Russia often uses i.e. 'two steps forward, one step back'. First Rogozin goes on the attack to see how far he can push the U.S - in this case, NASA, and then Putin dials it back by 80% or so. But that still leaves Rogozin 20% to work with. Everyone in the space world is used to this by now.

Something to ponder: despite decades of whiplash from ever-changing U.S./Russian squabbles, the International Space Station has managed to survive and thrive amidst this chaos. Even when both countries engage in tit for tat sanctions - and hurl accusations - the ISS seems to be immune from this. Indeed, there is clearly a tacit acceptance by all parties that the cooperative ventures on ISS are simply too important to disrupt for petty political reasons even when things get really bad back on Earth. Yes, we lean in that direction everyone once in a while, but it is quickly dialed back once people calm down.

As I am fond of saying, perhaps living in space can teach us all some lessons on how to live and work together on Earth. China is about to launch a crew to its new space station. Russia wants to work with them and China wants to work with the U.S. I will be on CGTN at some point today and I will say that exact same thing - as I have many times before.

"VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, honestly, I don't think that Mr. Rogozin, that is the name of the head of-- Roscosmos, has threatened anyone in this regard. I've known him for many years, and I know that he is a supporter-- he is a supporter of expanding the relationship with the U.S. in this area, in space. Recently, the head of NASA spoke in the same vein. And I personally fully support this. And we have been working with great pleasure all of these years, and we're prepared to continue to work. For technical reasons though, and that's a different matter, is that the International Space Station is-- coming to an end of its service life. And maybe in this-- regard, the Roscosmos does not have plans to continue their work. However-- based on what I heard from-- our U.S. partners they, too, are looking at future cooperation in this particular segment in their certain-- in a certain way. But on the whole, the-- cooperation between our two countries in space is a great example of a situation where despite any kind of problems in political relationships in recent years, it's an area where we have been able to maintain and preserve the partnership and both parties cherish it. I think you just misunderstood the head of the-- Russian space program said. We are interested in continuing to work with the U.S. in this direction, and we will continue to do so if our U.S. partners don't refuse to-- to-- to do that. It doesn't mean that we need to work exclusively with the U.S. We-- have been working and will continue to work with China, which applies to all kinds of programs, including-- exploring deep space. And-- I think there is nothing but --positive information here. I-- frankly, I don't see any ex-- any-- contradictions here. I don't think any mutual-- exclusivity here."

NASA Launches Mission Equity, Seeks Public Input to Broaden Access

"NASA is launching Mission Equity, a comprehensive effort to assess expansion and modification of agency programs, procurements, grants, and policies, and examine what potential barriers and challenges exist for communities that are historically underrepresented and underserved. "NASA is a 21st century agency with 22nd century goals. To be successful, it's critical that NASA takes a comprehensive approach to address the challenges to equity we see today," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "The agency's new Mission Equity is a bold and necessary challenge for NASA to ensure our programs are accessible to all Americans and, especially, those living in historically underserved communities across the country. Because when NASA opens doors to talent previously left untapped, the universe is the limit."

Request for Information on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in NASA Programs, Contracts and Grants Process, NASA

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is issuing this Request for Information (RFI) to receive input from the public on NASA's mission directorates' programs, procurements, grants, regulations and policies. NASA will use this information to evaluate, implement, modify, expand, and streamline its programs, procurements, grants, regulations and policies to remove systemic inequitable barriers and challenges facing underserved communities. NASA will also use advanced research, data collection and technologies to assist in inter and intra-agency execution of this Administration's policy to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."

'Divine Vessel' to mark China's first human spaceflight since 2016, Reuters

"A Chinese spacecraft will blast off from the Gobi Desert on a Long March rocket in the coming days, ferrying three men to an orbiting space module for a three-month stay, the first time China has sent humans into space for nearly five years. Shenzhou-12, meaning "Divine Vessel", will be the third of 11 missions needed to complete China's space station by 2022."

Keith's note: I am scheduled to be on CGTN Live at around 9:30 pm EDT this evening to discuss this mission. Update: I have been bumped from tonight's coverage but have been penciled in for tomorrow (Wednesday) evening's coverage.

Russia, Once a Space Superpower, Turns to China for Missions, NY Times

"Now, the future of the Russian space program rests with the world's new space power, China. After years of promises and some limited cooperation, Russia and China have begun to draw up ambitious plans for missions that would directly compete with those of the United States and its partners, ushering in a new era of space competition that could be as intense as the first."

Roscosmos chief sees vast prospects for ecological monitoring cooperation with US, TASS

"The CEO of Russia's Roscosmos corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, sees vast prospects for cooperation with the United States in space, in particular, in the field of ecological monitoring. Rogozin shared his ideas while commenting on space-related questions put to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview to the US television network NBC. "We see vast prospects for cooperation with the United States in ecological monitoring from space," Rogozin wrote in his Telegram-channel."

Keith's note: Speaking today Rogozin noted that although China's space station is in an orbit with a different inclination than ISS that launches from Russia and French Guiana are possible and that Russia is discussing the sending of cosmonauts to China's space station. Rogozin said that he has spoken with Bill Nelson and that he will do so again. The issue of continued participation in the ISS program and its lifespan came up but nothing definitive was decided.

G7 nations commit to the safe and sustainable use of space, UK Space Agency

"Today at the G7 Leaders Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, delegates from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA, the UK and the EU pledged to take action to tackle the growing hazard of space debris as our planets orbit becomes increasingly crowded. One of the biggest global challenges facing the space sector is orbital congestion and space debris. There are currently an estimated 900,000 pieces of space debris including old satellites, spent rocket bodies and even tools dropped by astronauts orbiting Earth. Space debris could stay in orbit for hundreds of years and present a real danger to the rapidly increasing number of new satellites being launched each year."

North Atlantic Council - Brussels Summit Communique

"33. We recognise the growing importance of space for the security and prosperity of our nations and for NATOs deterrence and defence. Secure access to space services, products, and capabilities is essential for the conduct of the Alliances operations, missions and activities. We will accelerate our work to deepen and expand our use of space as an operational domain, including through the NATO Space Centre in Germany and the upcoming establishment of the Space Centre of Excellence in France, which we welcome. We will strengthen NATOs space domain awareness and better integrate space in our activities, including training and exercises, resilience, and innovation efforts. Consistent with the Overarching Space Policy, NATO's approach to space will remain fully in line with international law. We support the international efforts to promote responsible behaviour in space. We consider that attacks to, from, or within space present a clear challenge to the security of the Alliance, the impact of which could threaten national and Euro-Atlantic prosperity, security, and stability, and could be as harmful to modern societies as a conventional attack. Such attacks could lead to the invocation of Article 5. A decision as to when such attacks would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis."

Contacting aliens could end all life on earth. Let's stop trying, Op Ed by Mark Buchanan, Washington Post

"More alarming is the possibility that alien civilizations are remaining out of contact because they know something: that sending out signals is catastrophically risky. Our history on Earth has given us many examples of what can happen when civilizations with unequal technology meet -- generally, the technologically more advanced has destroyed or enslaved the other. A cosmic version of this reality might have convinced many alien civilizations to remain silent. Exposing yourself is an invitation to be preyed upon and devoured."

Keith's note: Oh no. Face-eating aliens want to "devour" us. We have all seen that movie before. See what this whole UFO report release meme is stirring up? Really, Washington Post? The op ed author Mark Buchanan seems to think that just listening for indications of other civilizations will somehow alert them that they are being listened to such they will come and eat us. How? Did they file a subpoena for our radio telescope observation records? Besides, we have been sending all manner of radio transmissions out for a centry. Its too late to call the signals back.

Even if these signals from Earth are not detectable or reecognizable by another civiilzation, there are aspects of what we have done to our planet's surface and atmosphere that they can detect. These indications are called "technosignatures" and are a subset of the overall biosignatures that instruments like the Webb Space Telescope will be searching for on worlds circling distant stars. We don't have to send ET any text messages. They can find us much more easily across greater distances by looking at our dirty air.

NASA doesn't need to test SLS anymore, but the Senate mandates it anyway, Ars Technica

"But there was more to the NASA amendment. Wicker co-sponsored it and got his own language added to the bill. The Stennis-specific provision says NASA should "initiate development of a main propulsion test article for the integrated core stage propulsion elements of the Space Launch System, consistent with cost and schedule constraints, particularly for long-lead propulsion hardware needed for flight." ... This seems a somewhat curious rationale, as NASA has already said the SLS core stage does not need to be subjected to further ground tests. Rather, NASA is pushing to fly the vehicle as soon as possible, as the agency is sensitive to criticism that the rocket is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, and it's viewed by detractors as a jobs program."

Keith's note: And of course, since NASA Administrator Senator Nelson is for anything that it takes to fund SLS - even if NASA does not need it. He'll support this pointless SLS test article - just like he supported absolutely everything else associated with SLS.

- NASA Just Can't Get That Engine Test Stand Thing Right, earlier post
- NASA OIG: NASA's Decision Process for Conducting Space Launch System Core Stage Testing at Stennis, earlier post
- Too Many Test Stands at NASA?, earlier post
- OIG Slaps NASA on Un-Needed Stennis Test Stands - Again, earlier post

Keith's note: According to this posting on the NASA.gov website: NASA Seeks Proposals for Next 2 Private Astronaut Missions to Space Station which says "NASA is seeking proposals for two new private astronaut missions to the International Space Station as part of the agency's efforts to open space to more people than ever before. With these opportunities, U.S. commercial companies will continue to play an essential role in establishing a sustained presence in low-Earth orbit (LEO) through the agency's Commercial LEO Development Program."

A like to this was posted at NASA.gov. @NASA tweeted a link - once - around 1:00 pm on Friday 11 June. But nothing was sent out to the media press release email list or through the usual press release distribution channels. Friday afternoons are a great time to bury news - and it also means that some print publications have already decided on their edition for the following week. There is no mention of this at these official NASA pages where you'd expect commercial space station news like this would be posted: International Space Station, Commercial Space Economy, Commercial Crew Program. There is no mention at the CASIS/ISS National Laboratory website either - despite the fact that this opportunity involves work within the ISS National Lab. Oh yes: the International Space Station page still has no mention of the ISS National Laboratory or a link to it - so the ISS Program Office still ignores CASIS/ISS National Lab whenever possible.

A link to Research Opportunities for International Space Station Utilization NNJ13ZBG001N is on this NASA page, but no email from NSPIRES was sent out - which is odd since they send out emails about every other imaginable procurement and NASA opportunity. But if you try and click on "NNJ13ZBG001N" on the page you are sent to - well, there is no link to this thing that NASA just announced. But there are links to these old documents "Research Opportunities for ISS Utilization" and "ISS Commercial Activities Form" and an amendment that says "This amendment provides significant clarification updates for Focus Area 4A for Private Astronaut Mission (PAM) Provider and adds Focus Area 4A.1 for Solicitation for PAM Provider for Two Flight Opportunities." which is a modified version of "Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements"- which is apparently the thing NASA is announcing. So why doesn't NASA just have a simple link to this document instead of making you jump around, go down a rabbit hole. and guess that this is what they are talking about?

NASA has built up an elaborate Internet presence - one that can reach millions of people and the news media. Yet they simply decide to not bother using it. Nor can they make the actual information easy to find. Either this announcement is just not important or NASA cannot get its internal public relations act together. Hard to tell.

BTW Glavkosmos is now selling seats for flights to the ISS too.

Keith's note: Really? NASA Wallops PAO is giving "exclusive on-pad access" to a launch pad with a classified mission sitting on it and only one media outlet gets this "exclusive on-pad access"? And they are bragging about it? And that's OK with NASA PAO? The last time I asked NASA HQ PAO about this they told me emphatically that they do not give "exclusives". WTKR News 3 is not exactly a nationally distributed news channel. Once again Wallops PAO is playing favorites with their local pals.

Keith's note: I will be on CNN Friday morning around 6:30 am EDT talking about billionaires flying in their own rocket ships.

Keith's note: 2 weeks ago there was a posting on NASAWatch complaining about how badly NASA's Office of Small Business Programs website and social media usage were. This is how the website used to look just a few weeks ago. If you go to https://osbp.nasa.gov you are redirected to https://www.nasa.gov/osbp and a brand new website. What a coincidence. Alas, despite the spiffy new look, the NASA OSBP website still does not mention this "matchmaking" event being held tomorrow that its Twitter account @NASA_OSBP just tweeted about - one that is being held in Blue Origin's and Boeing's back yard.

Keith's note: Resident science genius Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) asked someone from the Forest Service if they can alter the orbit of Earth and/or the Moon to deal with climate change. I guess there is a silver lining: we can all sleep well tonight in the knowledge that Rep. Gohmert knows that Earth orbits the sun.

Rep. Gohmert (R-TX): "I understand from what's been testified to by the Forest Service and the BLM, you want very much to work on the issue of climate change understand that you want to work on the issue of climake change. I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that the Moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. And we know there has been significant solar flare activities. Um, and so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the Moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously they would have profound effects on our climate."

Stunned Forest Service Representative: "I would have to follow up with you on that one Mr. Gohmert."

Gohmert: "Yea. Well, if you figure out a way that you in the, uh, in the Forest Service can make that change, I'd like to know."

Rogozin told on what conditions the United States handed over Sea Launch to Russia, RIA Novosti (auto translation)

"The United States agreed to transfer Russian space rocket complex "Sea Launch" under the condition that it will not compete with the US company SpaceX Elon Musk , said General Director of " Roscosmos " Dmitry Rogozin. "Specific strict restrictions were introduced when signing this contract for the transfer of two Sea Launch vessels to a Russian company (S7 - ed.) - an obligation that we do not have the right to use this Sea Launch in competition with Elon Musk," he said during parliamentary hearings in the State Duma. "Okay? That is, the US government, government lawyers act as a client of, in fact, a private company (SpaceX - ed.). Or maybe it is not a private company in this case, if with the help of state sanctions we are limited to compete with SpaceX?" "- added Rogozin."

Russia's space chief threatens to leave International Space Station program unless U.S. lifts sanctions

"Russia's space chief threatened Monday to withdraw from the International Space Station program if U.S. sanctions against Moscow's space entities are "not lifted in the near future." "If the sanctions against Progress and TsNIIMash remain and are not lifted in the near future, the issue of Russia's withdrawal from the ISS will be the responsibility of the American partners," Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said during a Russian parliament hearing on Monday, according to an NBC translation. "Either we work together, in which case the sanctions are lifted immediately, or we will not work together and we will deploy our own station," he added."

Roscosmos unable to launch some satellites due to sanctions -- Rogozin, TASS

"Russian space corporation Roscosmos will be unable to launch some satellites due to the lack of microchips that cannot be imported due to sanctions. "We have more than enough rockets, but there is nothing to put in space," Rogozin told the State Duma during hearings on Western sanctions and measures being taken to minimize their effects on the Russian economy and politics."

Issuance of a new Ukraine-related Executive Order; Ukraine-related Designations, U.S. Department of the Treasury

"ROGOZIN, Dmitry Olegovich (a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitriy; a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitry); DOB 21 Dec 1963; POB Moscow, Russia; Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (individual) [UKRAINE2]."

- Can Sanctioned Roscosmos Chief Rogozin Visit The U.S.?, earlier post

NASA is getting serious about UFOs, CNN

"We don't know if it's extraterrestrial. We don't know if it's an enemy. We don't know if it's an optical phenomenon," Nelson said. "We don't think [it's an optical phenomenon] because of the characteristics that those Navy jet pilots described ... And so the bottom line is, we want to know." NASA press secretary Jackie McGuinness said Nelson did not establish a formal task force to begin investigating UFOs. However, he did direct researchers to move forward with exploring any lines of questioning around the topic as they see fit."

Opinion: We're asking the wrong questions about UFOs, Washington Post

"In recent decades, science has focused on aspects of extraterrestrial inquiry, including the search for signs of life on other planets -- think the Mars rover-- and techno-signatures -- radio signals that appear to emanate from outside Earth. The research has been complex, evidence-based and demanding, pulling in scientists from across disciplines and all around the globe. The same should be true for the exploration of UAP sightings. If we want to understand what UAP are, then we need to engage the mainstream scientific community in a concerted effort to study them. ... Ravi Kopparapu is a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Jacob Haqq-Misra is a research scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science."

Keith's note: There is a big government report coming out and it mentions UFOs, aliens, and the who knows what else. Its formal release is still more than 2 weeks away and yet we're already arguing about what it says and doesn't say - and what should be done about what its says or doesn't say. In essence we have little concrete evidence - about a report that apparently says that we have little concrete evidence - as to what these UFO/UAP things are or are not. We are accelerating our level of ignorance with arm waving and everyone is jumping on board.

This Department of Defense UFO/UAP report is going to force NASA and other agencies to respond. It cannot be stopped. it is coming out. Indeed it is already dribbling out. There is no way to get around that. If NASA is smart, they will take this opportunity to fix some things and use this opportunity to its advantage. Or they will find their commentary bouncing around the news and internet sphere with hesitant statements competing with overt conspiracy mongering and silly memes. But NASA can seize control of this conversation - if it wants to. It should.

NASA leadership says that the agency is going to look into this thing. Fine. NASA has a world class group of really smart people who can reprogram ancient robots in interstellar space while flying helicopters on Mars. To me, the question is whether NASA's Aeronautics Directorate is studying this UFO thing - which would make some sense given that the manner of motion whereby these objets seem to move is quite inexplicable. Or should NASA's Science Mission Directorate look into this (which makes less sense) as part of its search for life in the universe i.e. NASA's Astrobiology program. Probably both.

NASA Administrator Statement on Meeting with Roscosmos

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released the following statement after an introductory call Friday with Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin: "I was pleased to speak with General Director Dimitry Rogozin this morning in a productive discussion about continued cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos."

Dmitry Rogozin held phone call with NASA head Bill Nelson, Roscosmos

"Therewith, the head of Roscosmos stated several questions that had been initiated by the US side earlier and now are substantially hindering the cooperation. First of all this is about the sanctions introduced by the American administration against the enterprises of the Russian space industry, as well as the absence of any official information in Roscosmos from the US partners on the plans to further control and operate the ISS."

Keith's update: It took them a while but @NASA_Technology tweeted a link - a day after the procurement notice was issued. But there is still no mention of this NIAC opportunity on the NASA Technology Directorate or NIAC websites.

Keith's note: Make sure you read this carefully. NASA Wants your input on something that they use to coordinate public outreach. They call it NSPIREHub and apparently it is a very cool thing. At least they think so. Update: check below. NASA responded - exactly as I expected them to ...

Name of Information Collection: NASA Serves the Public To Inspire Reach-Out and Engage (NSPIREHub), NASA via Federal Register

"The NASA Serves the Public to Inspire Reach-Out and Engage (NSPIREHub) is a one-stop, web-based volunteer management system that streamlines communications, recruitment and marketing and enhances reporting and management of official outreach events. The NSPIREHub engages, informs and inspires current docents, employees (civil servants and contractors), interns and qualified members of the general public to share NASA's advancements, challenges and contributions through participation in official outreach (i.e., launch support, special events support activities, etc.).

The NSPIREHub utilizes a multiple tiered, role-based NAMS provisioning to empower system administrators to request and collect specific user information for the purpose of coordinating the carrying out of NASA's official outreach activities. These specific purposes include but are not limited To: Facilitating pre-event briefings, onsite and virtual support trainings, shadowing opportunities and assignment scheduling.

The information collected and protected within the NSPIREHub helps to ensure all outreach support team members, prior to serving, are equipped with the tools, skills and confidence necessary to share their stories in alignment with NASA's communication priorities. It also makes possible the efficient reporting of metric data relevant to the impact of official outreach on fulfillment of NASA's responsibilities as related to the Space Act, Section 203."

I Googled "NSPIREHub" and got nothing. I used the NASA.gov search engine got nothing. I even tried NTRS. Nothing. I tried searching for "NASA Serves the Public to Inspire Reach-Out and Engage". Nothing - except this Federal Register notice, that is. This Federal Register posting says that NSPIREHub "is a one-stop, web-based volunteer management system that ..." "Is" - that's the operative word. This notice says that this NSPIREHub thing exists and that it does something. But I cannot find any mention of it - anywhere. Is this some sort of secret internal NASA thing? If so then why does this data collection notice seek public input if the public cannot even see the thing to begin with? How can they be expected to provide any input on something that they cannot see? Who owns this NSPIREHub thing? PAO? NASA STEM Engagement? Is this a NASA HQ effort or does some field center run this in stealth mode somewhere?

I have to hand it to NASA though. They have apparently created a totally stealthy public outreach system. Only NASA would think to do invisible outreach, I guess.

Keith's update: I sent a request to the person listed on the Federal Register notice and NASA HQ PAO. It was forwarded to someone at KSC who replied:

"I just want to make sure what type of information you are looking for so I send you the right stuff. The actual website that holds the working information is not available to the public for use. It is only intended for use by NASA/Contractor's with access behind the firewall. Can you please let me know what type of information you are interested in?"

So I replied:

"The reason I ask is that the Federal Register notice clearly asks for public input: "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections." How can the general public provide input for a site that it cannot see? I am a member of the general public so can I see what I need to see in order to provide public feedback? Otherwise why was this notice seeking general public input issued?"

BUT - and this is important - the person at KSC who is responsible is going to pull some things together for me. I am genuinely interested in how NASA does education and outreach - which is what drew my attention to this Federal Register posting in the first place. So, let's see what NASA provides me.

The State Of NASA

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Delivers State of NASA Address (Video)

"Nelson remarked on his long history with NASA, and among other topics, discussed the agency's plans for future Earth-focused missions to address climate change and a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, as well as announcing two new planetary science missions to Venus - VERITAS and DAVINCI+."

NASA Selects 2 Missions to Study 'Lost Habitable' World of Venus

"NASA has selected two new missions to Venus, Earth's nearest planetary neighbor.

Part of NASA's Discovery Program, the missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours - and may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and Earth-like climate.

These investigations are the final selections from four mission concepts NASA picked in February 2020 as part of the agency's Discovery 2019 competition. Following a competitive, peer-review process, the two missions were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. The project teams will now work to finalize their requirements, designs, and development plans."

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."

Watch

Biden administration sets mid-July deadline to finalize agency reentry plans

"Agencies have until July 19 to submit employee and contractor reentry plans to the Office of Management and Budget, the Biden administration said Tuesday. Agencies must finalize their plans for both reopening offices and setting post-reentry procedures and policies by that date, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, in collaboration with OMB, the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration, said in an email. Those final plans will build on draft reentry plans, which agencies are supposed to submit to OMB by June 18. Agencies can, in phases, bring more employees and contractors back to their work sites after completing their final reentry plans, satisfying collective bargaining obligations and giving the workforce advanced notice, the task force said."

Keith's note: After four years of attempts to kill NASA's Education Office a new Administration wants to increase NASA's education funding. A person with a PhD in Education lives in the White House. Overall, the Biden/Harris Administration talks about enhancing education in all quarters of the government. Instead of having a political donor running the Department of Education into the ground, an actual teacher and professional educational manager is now the Secretary of Education. If you are interested in the future of our nation's education system, now would be a good time for you to start being enthusiastic - again.

You'd think that NASA would be overjoyed. Alas, even in the best of times, NASA's education efforts have been under funded, filled with congressional pork, and at odds with NASA Public Affairs and the outreach efforts run by various NASA directorates, missions, and field centers. And they lack even the most basic of metrics to allow its efforts to be evaluated for effectiveness. Rarely has NASA's education office been run by an actual professional educator with prior education management experience.

As Bill Nelson assumed the position of NASA Administrator, he has been saying all the right things about education, inspiring the next generation, the value of NASA as a global ambassador, etc. Jim Bridenstine said the same things. So did Charlie Bolden and Sean O'Keefe. Unlike his predecessors, NASA has a $147 million request - a 15.7% increase over FY 2021 appropriations in its education budget in the President's FY 2022 budget request. The budget request shows an out year runout reaching $160 million in FY 2026. If you look at the STEM summary in the NASA budget justification (page 725) - the 3 pages of 'lets get rid of education' verbiage from the Trump era is replaced with 6 pages of 'what can we do to expand education' at NASA.

What The Biden/Harris White House Says About NASA Education

As for NASA's plans according to this budget justification, the document states:

"NASA will execute a new integrated action plan toward broadening student participation in STEM Engagement programs and activities. This plan has outlined discrete initiatives and identified best practices already underway under four overarching goals:
鈥 Enhance communications and stakeholder engagement, and build networks and relationships dedicated to broadening student participation;
鈥 Strengthen practices and systems鈥痶oward broadening student participation;
鈥 Build a solid foundation for a focus on metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation; and
鈥 Drive a collective focus across NASA's STEM Engagement community on broadening student participation and foster a commitment to achieving more diversity, equity, and inclusion in student opportunities and programs."

Keep these things in mind as you go through my commentary.

Two weeks ago I sent an email to NASA Public Affairs - and the Associate Administrators for Communications and STEM Engagement - about the excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response a week later. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current lazy, disinterested 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."

Oddly the budget justification issued by the White House - presumably written with the collaboration of NASA - states that such a plan exists. So why did NASA Public Affairs tell me to consult with the White House? Did they not know that they had a plan what was in synch with the White House? As you will see below, NASA's education plans are ad hoc, in serious need of updating, are out of synch with other agency activities, and almost totally devoid of "metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation" as stated by the White House.

Assuming that the FY 2022 budget request for NASA education survives, what will Bill Nelson do with the extra $27 million? Will he just pour it into the status quo? If so then the added funds will make little real difference due to systemic problems within the NASA STEM Engagement Office. Or, will Nelson take the lead offered him by the White House and set aside some serious money to revamp i.e. to "Build Back Better" this aging and inefficient education program so as to make it 21st century compliant?

Let's take a closer look at NASA's Education efforts. I have expanded some of the things I have been writing about recently.


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