August 2021 Archives

Multi-Agency Research and Development Priorities for the FY 2023 Budget, OMN/OSTP

"This memorandum outlines the Administration's multi-agency R&D priorities for formulating fiscal year (FY) 2023 Budget submissions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The priorities covered in this memo require continued investments in R&D; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and engagement; STEM workforce development; technology transfer and commercialization; and research infrastructure, with emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other Minority Serving Institutions, and disadvantaged communities who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. These priorities should be addressed within the FY 2023 Budget guidance levels provided by OMB."

Keith's note: The word "space" is mentioned once in this memo - and only in a long list of other things. To be certain you do not need to use that word to imply that NASA is or is not involved in something - or that the White House is/isn't either. But it is curious that space is only mentioned once given all of the Moon rock in the Oval Office and Mars helicopter references that President Biden made early in his Administration. What happened to all that Oval Office Space Love?

To be certain, NASA PAO will almost certainly make no mention whatsoever of this memo since the current NASA management team seems to have only a passive interest in what the Biden Administration says. And despite the frequent mention of STEM and related topics NASA's Office of STEM Engagement will continue to sleep its way through any meaningful mention of this news. There may well be more interest regarding Biden science and R&D priorities inside the agency. But you have to wonder why so little of that theoretical interest ever trickles out. By contrast, the Trump Administration, with its chronic lack of interest in science - or a fundamental understanding thereof - still made sure that NASA talked about it. A lot. Joe Biden's NASA? Not so much.

Joe Biden's NASA Needs A Wake Up Call, earlier post

Russian cosmonauts find new cracks in ISS module, Reuters

"Russian cosmonauts have discovered new cracks in a segment of the International Space Station that could widen, a senior space official said on Monday, the latest in a series of setbacks. "Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module," Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency. "This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time."

Revealed: Biden's ethics exceptions, Axios

"The details: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was excused from rules that would have barred him from working with Lockheed Martin, for which he was a paid advisory board member. Nelson assured ethics officials prior to his confirmation that he would only be participating in policy matters potentially affecting Lockheed, not any procurement or contracting decisions involving the company."

Jeff Bezos' NASA Lawsuit Is So Huge It's Crashing the DOJ Computer System

"As if NASA didn't have enough issues on their hands, the agency's computers keep crashing because the files from Blue Origin's lawsuit are too big -- resulting in a further delay to SpaceX's Human Landing System (HLS) contract. The size of Blue Origin's lawsuit (which clocks in at more than seven gigabytes worth of PDFs) is causing the Department of Justice's Adobe software to crash, according to documents obtained by space reporter Joey Roulette. The issue stems from the fact that the Acrobat can't combine "several hundred files at one time without crashing."

Keith's 29 Aug 4:27 pm EDT Update: NASA PAO finally got around to doing some updates - after the hurricane made landfall.

Keith's 28 Aug 5:00 pm EDT note: Hurricane Ida is heading for the gulf coast and will land in the New Orleans area tomorrow as a category 4 storm. Nearby Michoud Assembly Facility will be strongly affected and Stennis Space Center is also probably going to take some hits. I was in the area a few weeks after Katrina hit and it had the look of a major war zone. The Governor of Louisiana has said that Ida could be the strongest storm to hit the area since the 1850s - eclipsing Katrina - and Katrina was bad.

NASA constantly promotes its climate change studies, how weather satellites demonstrate the value of space utilization, and loves to post lots of pictures of Earth as taken from space - especially large storms. Alas, if you go to NASA.gov there is no mention of this storm. Nor is there any mention at the NASA Michoud, NASA Stennis, or NASA Johnson web pages.

The last update NASA has on its Hurricane And Typhoon Updates blog is from 19 November 2020. The last update on its Hurricanes and Tropical Storms web page is from more than 2 weeks ago. If you look at the NASA Johnson Flickr and the NASA Space Station Images pages there are no ISS photos of the storm.

Thousands of Michoud employees will be directly affected as will the operation of the center where SLS rockets are built. Millions of taxpayers will be similarly affected. To be certain, storms are the responsibility of NOAA, the National Weather Service, FEMA etc. In the past NASA has always highlighted its role in all of this. Now, apparently, NASA PAO is no longer interested in devastating storms that affect its operations and the lives of taxpayers. Indeed, the only NASA employee who seems to think it is important enough to make public comment on this storm is an astronaut in orbit.

Larry Young

Laurence Young, professor emeritus of astronautics and renowned expert in bioastronautics, dies at 85, MIT

"Laurence R. Young '57, SM '59, ScD '62, the Apollo Program Professor Emeritus of Astronautics and professor of health sciences and technology at MIT, died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Aug. 4 after a long illness. He was 85. ... While he never flew a space mission, he served as backup crew (alternate payload specialist) on Spacelab Life Sciences-2 (STS-58) and was principal or co-investigator on seven shuttle missions conducting human orientation experiments."

Keith's note: Where do I start. Larry was one of the first real, by gosh, space life scientists I ever met - even before I arrived at the old NASA Life Science Division at NASA HQ in 1987. Over the coming decades, whether I was running centrifuge efforts at Space Station Freedom, covering NASA online, enduring advisory committee meetings, hanging out at NASA conferences, shuttle launches, peer review panels, or eating lobster in Woods Hole, there was Larry. He was everywhere doing everything, I always looked forward to regular chats with Larry. He was always interested in what you had to say and was never, ever shy about telling you what he thought. And nothing ever seemed to bum him out. Speaking of bums, in addition to his immense career in space life sciences he was a certifiably crazy ski bum. Larry was always in motion.

A few years ago we were gossiping in the hallway at some event. Indeed, I swear Larry was one of the best people to gossip with in the hallway when a meeting was boring since he was always much more interesting. At some point I mentioned our mutual friends Mel Averner and Dick Keefe who had died recently. I started to tear up. So did Larry. We missed our friends. Now I am really going to miss Larry too. The people who created space biomedical sciences are leaving us far too fast. This MIT bio of Larry only scratches the surface.

Ad astra my friend.

Keith's note: National Space Council Executive Director Chirag Parikh just made a short 10 minute presentation at the Space Symposium. He has only been on the job for 3 weeks but he did touch on some important topics - at least topics that I think are important i.e making space relevant beyond the space community's little bubble. Whether NASA pays attention to what Parikh and the National Space Council says is another matter altogether. NASA does not like to have other people tell the agency what to do. NASA just wants them to provide money to do what NASA wants to do - at a pace that NASA wants. Stay tuned.

Keith's note: There are a variety of advisory bodies set up for the purpose of soliciting expert advice for how America should run its space activities. One entity, the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) is supposed to be the prime focus on such advice collection. Given the whole pandemic thing, it should be expected that things have fallen behind. But while NASA does everything else, it seems to be unable to keep the NAC current or have it meet. You'd think that with a new Administration in the White House and all of the mounting challenges to NASA's large programs such as Artemis, that this advice is needed now more than ever. Guess again. The NAC is inert.

For starters, if you look at the group portrait of the NAC on its homepage you will see that "The Honorable Bill Nelson (former U.S. Senator)" and "Mr. Robert Cabana (Director, Kennedy Space Center)" are members and "Mr. James Morhard (NASA Deputy Administrator)" is still on the job at NASA. The last NAC meetings shown are from "March-May 2020" - more than a year ago. The last NAC meeting minutes that were posted are from November 2019.

If you go to the NASA OIIR Advisory Committee Management Division page you will see links to NAC and other committees that are either stale and/or link to sites where the committees have meeting information that is totally out of synch with what the OIIR has on its NAC page. And the "annual call for nominations" that they link to is from 2018.

As I noted a month ago in Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters the official NAC web page is out of date when it comes to meetings. While no one can tell you who is and is not on the NAC or when it will meet next, some of its subcommittees have managed to meet - even if the NAC home page is not aware of these meetings. Indeed, many of these NAC committees actually expired since the ANC staff at NASA apparently forgot to renew them.

As I noted in my earlier post: "The whole NAC thing is run by the Advisory Committee Management Division of the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR). The OIIR is not known for being up to date on things. As I noted a month ago NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update. ... *all* of the policy links they have listed go to broken links that evaporated when the Trump Administration left office." Two months later and OIIR still can't do simple website updates so that all of the stakeholders, policy makers, media, and taxpayers can see what is going on.

Meanwhile, as the NAC remains stale and non-functional, the Vice President's office finally got around to naming an Executive Secretary for the National Space Council. But that's it. The enabling policies on the books stipulate who the pro forma members of the Space Council are. There is an interest in retaining the Users Advisory Group (UAG) but no one knows who the National Space Council staff are or who will serve on the UAG. And of course, the OIIR is the last place to look since they cannot even, manage to find a link to the Executive Order that brought the National Space Council back to life under the previous Administration.

As I noted recently in NASA Tries To Fix A Webpage By Breaking It NASA OIIR is really asleep at the wheel right now. The OIIR can't manage to maintain an accurate public-facing web page that explains the NASA Advisory Council; and the OIIR has no idea what the National Space Council is doing.

On a larger note, NASA has no real policy to guide what it is doing other than to not break anything that they were already doing under the Trump Administration. Even though inadequate budgets, SLS and spacesuit delays, and HLS protests now make the 2024 lunar landing target utterly improbable, NASA won't even state the obvious. Its hard to take NASA leadership seriously when they can't even admit what everyone already knows.

Early in his tenure, President Biden used to mention space and NASA accomplishments almost weekly - often as examples of American creativity and drive. Not any more. To be certain the pandemic, Afghanistan, a bad economy, and a failed insurrection have justifiably distracted his Administration. That said, the Biden Administration has a rather rich set of policy positions that resonate in many ways with what NASA does. Only climate change has gotten any attention with regard to NASA. Alas, despite promoting a "Build Back Better" meme, all that the Biden Administration seems to have allowed NASA to do thus far is to "Leave Things Broken".

NASA can be vastly better than this - but only if the White House starts to take NASA seriously - and expect that NASA will get off its butt and respond. Otherwise NASA will just rest on its laurels and say "space is hard" any time something doesn't go the way it is supposed to. That is the easy path - which is what NASA is sadly defaulting to right now.

Earlier Biden Space postings

Keith's note: The opening speakers at today's Space Symposium session were General Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Raymond said nothing new and just repeated his agency's talking points and had a bunch of people stand up in the audience for recognition. But he also said "space is hard" three times in his remarks - as if to instill a meme of caution and lowered expectations. He showed a short video that included Bill Nelson saying "space is hard". Then when Nelson spoke in person he said "space is hard" again. That's 5 "space is hard" citations in a matter of a few minutes by the top two space leaders in America. Its almost as if they are working together to try and set the stage for failure, lowered expectations, or for things not working as hoped. Thanks for cheering us up guys.

Nelson opened his remarks with the tired old spinoff excuse for what NASA does (cellphones and ski goggles) but did not really address what matters most to the 300 million taxpayers in America right now: the pandemic, political strife, and a shaky economy - other than to talk about jobs that he claims were created and/or supported by NASA. Yes, jobs are good but NASA never bothers to explain exactly how the jobs it cites are created by what NASA does. NASA just throws numbers out and then moves on. He also mentioned a new NASA app to let people see what NASA Earth satellites do but there is no mention of it at NASA.gov. Oh well.

To be certain, Nelson did lift his hopes upward momentarily and said "We can do hard things. We are a can-do people. ... for America to lead in space and continue to do so on Earth it will take all of us working together ... we are all in this together as citizens of this planet". But since this was a presentation to a crowd composed of the usual suspects in an echo chamber engaged in choir practice what else was he going to say, right? NASA did tell 48,000,000 Twitter followers at the last minute via Twitter that they could/watch listen to Nelson. But NASA passed on a chance to aim for the cheap seats with some relevancy to the real world and focused instead on the talking points that worked best with the select audience in attendance in Colorado.

Meanwhile we have yet to see anything emerge from the Biden Administration's National Space Council or its Users Advisory Group or OSTP with regard to space. Apparently Space Policy Is Hard too.

There are some new NASA videos featuring Drew Barrymore. Here is one of them. I have been a space enthusiast for more than 60 years so I do not need the sales pitch. Neither do space people. But saying that we're going to spend billions to go to another world to learn how to live there while our own world is burning from climate change and torn apart by civil strife flies in the face of what regular folks are inclined to support. NASA needs to explain itself better than simply saying that we are going to do these hard, expensive things in space because it makes sense - to NASA.

NASA did post a What does NASA do for you? feature at NASA.gov but it is mostly one sentence talking points, large pictures, and a few report links. Again, NASA passed on a chance to recognize what the nation and the world are going through - and missed yet another chance to "make the sale" with regard to the benefits of space to actual people living on the real world. Someday maybe NASA will learn to both listen to - and talk to - real people - and not just the person in the next NASA cubicle.

Keith's note: NASA PAO is sending this statement to news media - but you have to request it. Oddly although this is an official statement they will not post it on their own website for the public to see. And If PAO is in a bad mood they won't send it to you - even if you ask for it several times. They never sent it to me after 2 requests so I typed this from the various low res screen grabs that have been tweeted - any errors are due to my typing: (update: NASA PAO sent it to me - only after I made this post).

"NASA has voluntarily paused work with SpaceX for the human landing system (HLS)Option A contract effective Aug. 19 through Nov. 1. In exchange for this temporary stay of work, all parties agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on Nov. 1. NASA officials are continuing to work with the Department of Justice to review the details of the case and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter. NASA is committed to Artemis and to maintaining the nation's global leadership in space exploration With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars"

Keith's note: Another week - and another link check update for the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR) website and its chronic inability to do some basic HTML updates. It looks like someone tried to fix the "Helpful Links" page by deleting links and breaking other links. For starters, they do not seem to know where these links are: Executive Order for the National Space Council (here it is)
White House Fact Sheet on the National Space Strategy (here it is)

This OIIR link for the International Space Station Crew Code of Conduct goes to a dead location. You can find it here at Cornell Law School: 14 CFR § 1214.403 - Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew or here at ESA or here at the Federal Register. No one seems to know where the International Space Station Bilateral Agreements are. Here they are from 1998 on NASA.gov.

All of the Space Policy Directives (SPDs) signed by the Trump Administration and previous Administrations (which are still binding unless rescinded or updated) have been removed from the OIIR website. The Space Foundation has everything nicely listed here on their website. No mention is made of the Artemis Accords - even though NASA continues to add signatories during the Biden Administration. The text is here on NASA.gov.

And since this is an International Relations page where are the links to all of those International space treaties that govern how the U.S. does things in space? No mention whatsoever. The United Nations has a nice list here.

You'd think that the largest space agency on Earth, with IT/Web budgets in the hundreds of million of dollars, could create and maintain a simple web page with links that can be found in seconds via Google. People come to these websites looking for information only to find broken or absent links. I guess its time for more memos and meetings on how to fix the links - even though I have repeatedly offered correct links for them to use - all they have to do is cut and paste. The people in charge of this website at NASA OIIR are lazy and/or inept. Seriously.

- NASA's Websites Need Some Attention, earlier post
- NASA Is Still Sleepwalking When It Comes to Policy Transparency, earlier post
- NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update, earlier post

Keith's note: The annual ISSRDC - International Space Station Research And Development Conference has had a series of technical session this week - from 16-18 August. If you go to Twitter no one seems to be tweeting anything about what is being said about the capability and potential of the International Space Station. In the first portion of this year's ISSRDC earlier this month NIH Director Francis Collins did an amazing conversation/interview with ISS Astronaut (and actual research biologist) Kate Rubins. They touched on a variety of cutting edge things that NASA is doing on ISS including CRISPR - a technique that allows unprecedented insight into how the genetics of living systems works.

No NASA hype needed - this is actually, no kidding, cutting edge stiff - and NASA is doing it - in orbit. NASA has tried for years to get visibility and parity with NIH - now they have. But you'd never know it. NASA could have promoted video of this interview, posted a transcript etc. But no. They let it fade away. Now, less than 2 weeks later the detailed sessions where things like CRISPR are being discussed and NASA - HEOMD, SMD, PAO, ISSPO and ISSNL have gone out of their individual and collective way to ignore ISSRDC's technical sessions.

Today, this article "International Space Station experiment expands DNA research toolkit using CRISPR" from NASA JSC appeared on Eurekalert. But you cannot find it on the JSC home page, HEOMD's NASA ISS home page, SMD's NASA Biological & Physical Sciences page, or anywhere else that I can find. They did not send this out to news media by email. And when I go to JSC to re-subscribe to their press releases (thinking that maybe I am missing things) the address they tell everyone to use to subscribe to news releases does not even exist.

Are there any more ways NASA can make it harder for people to know what they do? If so, please let me know.

Keith's note: Three days of online technical sessions for the 2021 ISS Research & Development Conference (ISSRDC) are being held from 16-18 August. No one at NASA or the ISS National Laboratory seems to be making any effort to provide public mention of the event or what is being presented. There is no mention at the main NASA ISS page, the ISS National Laboratory (CASIS) home page. There is a small box in the lower right hand corner of the NASA ISS National Laboratory home page. None of the events are being show on NASA TV or live streamed unless you know about this hidden event and register. If you click through 10 pages of archived NASA press releases and media advisories there is no mention whatsoever of ISSRDC. The people who tweet stuff from HEOMD AA Kathy Luders' Twitter account @KathyLuders make no mention.

Meanwhile, NASA continues the promotion of the value of the ISS (which is very real and only partially realized) and how they want the money to keep it fully operational until 2030 while also doing Artemis - with full funding - and building yet another space station (albeit a small one) in lunar orbit. NASA is also spending lots of money on capabilities offered by Axiom Space and other ways to extend the utility of ISS. But when it comes to explaining why this ISS spending is important or what benefits are being derived every day from the ISS, all NASA seems to be able to do is postpress releases about local schools talking to astronauts or cargo flight deliveries to the ISS. The users of the International Space Station are presenting their results and plans online - right now - and NASA HEOMD and PAO could not be bothered to lift a finger to tell anyone outside a very, very small bubble that this is even happening.

Keith's note: NASA Public Affairs has issued this statement (you have to ask for it and they are apparently not going to post it on their website for some reason):

"NASA was notified that Blue Origin filed a bid protest with the United States Court of Federal Claims (COFC) following the denial of the protests filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding NASA's selection for the human landing system (HLS) Option A award. NASA officials are currently reviewing details of the case. NASA is committed to the Artemis program and the nation's global leadership in space exploration. With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars. As soon as possible, the agency will provide an update on the way forward for returning to the Moon as quickly and as safely as possible under Artemis."

Spacesuits and Lawsuits Put 2024 Moon Landing in Jeopardy, NextGov

"NASA may not land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 because two spacesuits won't be ready on time and because losing bidders have protested the lunar lander contract, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday. "The goal is 2024. We have just been held up for 100 days waiting for the protest" filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics to the Government Accountability Office over NASA's decision to award the contract to SpaceX, Nelson said.. The protest had halted all work on the lander until GAO threw it out on July 30." ... "Nelson said Blue Origin might delay the lunar lander work further with appeals. "We are waiting as we speak to find out if there is going to be a further appeal to the Federal Court of Claims, which is like a federal district court, and then of course you can take appeals from there on to the United States Court of Appeals," he said. "So there are a lot of blockades that have been put in front of us."

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin sues NASA, escalating its fight for a Moon lander contract, The Verge

"Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin brought its fight against NASA's Moon program to federal court on Monday. The complaint escalates a monthslong crusade by the company to win a chunk of lunar lander funds that was only given to its rival, Elon Musk's SpaceX. The company's lawsuit, coming weeks after its first protest over the Moon program was squashed by a federal watchdog agency, could trigger another procedural pause to SpaceX's contract and add a new lengthy delay to NASA's race to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024."

Keith's note: Last night I did a Google search for "nasa space station images". The second search result was this NASA webpage: "International Space Station Multimedia" which was last updated on 23 February 2021. If you click on the images you get "404" i.e. "not found" errors. The "future missions" that are listed happened years ago. Update: NASA saw our post and fixed the link so that it redirects here - to a link that actually works. This is what used to be there

The fifth search result is another NASA page "International Space Station Photo Highlights" last updated 12 March 2014 which also shows "404" when you click on the images which also have broken links. Update: NASA fixed the link so that it redirects here - to a link that actually works. This is what used to be there

Meanwhile, the Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR) links page is still filled with broken links and makes no mention of Artemis Accords among other things. NASA does not seem to care about being accurate any more - at least online.

Oh yes - this was tweeted by a reckoned space journalist in response to a @NASAWatch tweet about this issue a few minutes ago ... just sayin'

Carolyn Shoemaker

American Astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker's Death at 92, US Day News

"American astronomer and a co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, Carolyn Shoemaker's death news has been spreading on social media after she passed away on August 2021 at the age of 92. May the legend rest in power. The heartbreaking news has been confirmed by Meteor Crater in a tweet, reading, "Carolyn Shoemaker, American astronomer and is a co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, discusses why she signed the 100x Asteroid Declaration and why #AsteroidDay is important to the World!"

Starliner Returning to Factory to Resolve Valve Issue

"Today, Boeing informed NASA that the company will destack its CST-100 Starliner from the Atlas V rocket and return the spacecraft to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) for deeper-level troubleshooting of four propulsion system valves that remain closed after last Tuesday's scrubbed launch."

Keith's 1:00 pm EDT update: This just serves to confirm what I wrote earlier. Boeing and NASA have a big problem to deal with - a spacecraft that is simply not ready for prime time.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Starliner's Orbital Flight Test-2

"NASA and Boeing are continuing discussions on the status of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, and will host a joint media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 13, to discuss the second uncrewed flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station, as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program."

Boeing Works to Open Starliner Valves, Determine Cause of Valve Issues

"Nine of the previously affected 13 valves are now open and functioning normally after the application of electrical and thermal techniques to prompt and command them open. Similar techniques are now being applied to the four valves that remain closed."

What in the Hell Is Going on With Boeing's Starliner?, Gizmodo

"Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee and editor of the site NASA Watch, made his opinion known yesterday in a painfully brief post: How--why--did this spacecraft--one that is supposed to eventually fly humans--ever make it to the launch pad without fully operational propulsion valves in the first place? Just wondering."

Keith's note: Boeing shipped this spacecraft to the pad with the full intention of launching it. The first time this design flew its software did not know what time it was or where the spacecraft was. Then this new, basic problem arose in a fundamental spacecraft system. Rolling back from the pad is a serious decision. Now, after a week fiddling with some equipment required for both nominal and contingency operations of this human-rated spacecraft, Boeing still has not fixed the problem.

You are likely going to hear that much more invasive work needs to be done - and that means prolonged delays in launching this vehicle. That also means that an army of Boeing and NASA safety people will parachute into this process and participate in months of work. Odds are that a launch will only happen in 2022. And even if that uncrewed mission is successful you are not likely to see a human crew on board until this time next year at the earliest. And there is an Atlas V waiting for something to do.

All of this costs Boeing money out of their pocket on top of the cost of dealing with OFT-1 remediation. Boeing only stands to get a certain amount of reimbursement from NASA for the crews that the agency will pay them to fly. Commercial missions are buying the only ride in town - SpaceX. As such a non-NASA revenue stream is simply not there for Boeing. At some point Boeing is going to have to either fix this spacecraft such that NASA and its crews wan to fly on it - or - Boeing is going to have to face the fiscal music and pull the plug on the whole misadventure. Stay tuned.

Today's media event will likely be summarized in a few sentences by most competent reporters. The rest of the event will be spent by both NASA and Boeing as they try too put a happy face on this and downplay the cold engineering reality and the potential impact on the program. And of course Kathy Lueders will say "space is hard" at some point in the briefing because that is all NASA knows how to say in these situations.

Kathy Lueders finally got around to tweeting "NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency. We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations." and Bill Nelson retweeted this tweet and added "I whole heartedly agree with Kathy's statement. I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.". Why does it always seem to take 24 hours for NASA to state the obvious - after everyone else already has?

Twelve theses of American claims against Roscosmos and answers to them, TASS (auto translated)

"As for getting it a hole in orbit, some circumstances should be taken into account, my anonymous interlocutor believes. First, the illness of one of the astronauts - as it became known from scientific workabout the first case of thrombus formation in orbit, when Serina Maria Auñon-Chancellor was already on Earth, she was subjected to this misfortune. "And this could provoke an acute psychological crisis," which could lead to attempts in various ways to speed up her return to the planet, my anonymous interlocutor believes."

Keith's note: This article appears on TASS, a mouthpiece which is owned by the Government of Russia. Clearly Roscosmos PAO was busy refuting various news reports about ongoing problems within Russia's space efforts so they could pump it out as "news" on Tass. This is a typical article you see from time to time - one that is made even more disjointed by automatic web translation. But one part of this article shines through the bad translation: a cheap shot against an American astronaut accusing her of an emotional break down and sabotaging a Soyuz so that she could get home earlier. Truth be known this sounds more like one of those goofy movie plots that Russia always seems to want to film on the ISS.

It is unlikely that the crude depiction of this American astronaut's health is remotely accurate. But if there was even the slightest issue of a medical concern the last thing Roscosmos - directly or by proxy - should be doing is talking about it in public - for any reason. To do so is a gross violation of "Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew" signed by Russia and all ISS partners and codified as law in the U.S. as 14 CFR § 1214.403. Specifically:

"In particular, all personal medical information, whether derived from medical monitoring, investigations, or medical contingency events, shall be treated as private medical information and shall be transmitted in a private and secure fashion in accordance with procedures to be set forth by the MMOP."

Meanwhile, one would hope that NASA makes a public stance on this nonsense in support of their employee. Something tells me that NASA PAO is not up to that task. This entire TASS article, bad translation not withstanding, is childish, defensive, and not the sort of thing that a great spacefaring nation should be putting out to explain its problems. It is time to grow up Roscosmos.

Keith's note: Looks like NASA PAO quietly sent this out to a few people last night. But you had to be psychic to know to ask for it in the first place. You gotta wonder why they do not just post it on their website so as to send a clear message to Roscosmos i.e. "This ain't cool. Knock it off".

"All the International Space Station partners are dedicated to mission safety and the welfare of the crew. The International Space Station partners all participate in multiple reviews prior to every major station activity to assess and ensure the safety of all crew members. The hole that was detected in late August 2018 by the space station crew was quickly sealed, restoring air-tight pressure to the station. Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk that December to gather additional engineering data for Russian specialists on Earth and to look externally at the effectiveness of the internal repair. The Soyuz spacecraft was thoroughly checked and deemed safe for the crew to return to Earth, which it did, on Dec. 20, 2018. To protect their privacy, the agency will not discuss medical information regarding crew members."

OSTP: Clear Rules for Research Security and Researcher Responsibility

"The Biden-Harris Administration holds a strong commitment to protecting research security and maintaining the core values behind America's scientific leadership, including openness, transparency, honesty, equity, fair competition, objectivity, and democratic values. During its final week in office, the previous administration issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM-33) to "strengthen protections of United States Government-supported R&D against foreign government interference and exploitation" while "maintaining an open environment to foster research discoveries and innovation that benefit our nation and the world." Given the timing of the release of NSPM-33, the previous administration did not have time to develop implementation guidance for federal agencies. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is working on how to implement NSPM-33 effectively, rigorously, and uniformly across the federal government in a way that protects the nation's interests in both security and openness."

Keith's note: This memo from the President's science advisor regarding the current OSTP's actions with regard to NSPM-33 certainly has implications for NASA inasmuch as NASA has numerous international projects including many that involve Russia and has binding legal restrictions in place with regard to China. NASA is part of the Federal government like all the other agencies are.

You'd think that the NASA office that deals with Intergovernmental and International relations would be on top of things like this. Maybe they are. Hard to tell. If you subscribe to the notion that one's official agency website reflects an agency's current understanding of the world (as NASA seems to) then you'd expect that the NASA Office International and Interagency Relations to have references to the current state of policies that are accurate - and that the links to them work. Guess again.

As I noted a month ago in ""NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update":

"If you go to the page where OIIR links to things, the top link i.e. Standing Trump Administration space policy documents - Executive Order for the National Space Council, White House Fact Sheet on the National Space Strategy, SPD-1, SPD-2, SPD-3 - all of the links are dead since that is what happens to one Admininstration's links when a new one takes over. Then there is International Space Station Multilateral Intergovernmental Agreement -- United States, Canada, European Space Agency, Japan, Russia (January 1998) which goes to an FTP site that no longer exists/won't let you in; International Space Station Crew Code of Conduct which goes to a dead link somewhere inside NASA; NASA CSA, ESA, Russia, and Japan agreements from 1998 which all go to dead links; and Space Shuttle mission info which, by definition, has not been updated since 2011. But nothing about Artemis, Orion, SLS, etc all of which have international cooperation embedded in them. And so on. If NASA can't be bothered to update their international relations web page at least once in a decade why should anyone take the time to visit it."

NASA OIG: NASA's Development of Next-Generation Spacesuits, NASA OIG

"NASA's current schedule is to produce the first two flight-ready xEMUs by November 2024, but the Agency faces significant challenges in meeting this goal. This schedule includes approximately a 20-month delay in delivery for the planned design, verification, and testing suit, two qualification suits, an ISS Demo suit, and two lunar flight suits. These delays- attributable to funding shortfalls, COVID-19 impacts, and technical challenges - have left no schedule margin for delivery of the two flight-ready xEMUs. Given the integration requirements, the suits would not be ready for flight until April 2025 at the earliest. Moreover, by the time two flight-ready xEMUs are available, NASA will have spent over a billion dollars on the development and assembly of its next-generation spacesuits."

Keith's note: Patricia Stoll, President, Space Systems & Engineered Solutions at ILC Dover responded to a @NASAWatch tweet on this issue - as well as one by @NASAOIG. Interesting. NASA might want to take notice.

Blue Origin Federation, LLC; Dynetics, Inc.-A Leidos Company B-419783; B-419783.2; B-419783.3; B-419783.4 July 30, 2021, GAO

"Significantly higher-priced offerors submitting proposals for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration, under a broad agency announcement (BAA) with a preference for two awards, argue that agency was required to advise them via an amendment or discussions (or otherwise cancel the BAA altogether) once the agency learned that it had less funding than it needed to support multiple awards for the effort. We deny the protests because the BAA expressly put all offerors on notice that the number of awards was subject to available funding and the agency could make multiple contract awards, a single award, or no award at all."

Related files

NASA, Boeing Make Progress on Starliner Valve Issue

"Work progressed to restore functionality to several valves in the Starliner propulsion system that did not open as designed during the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 launch attempt. The valves connect to thrusters that enable abort and in-orbit maneuvering."

Keith's note: How - why - did this spacecraft - one that is supposed to eventually fly humans - ever make it to the launch pad without fully operational propulsion valves in the first place? Just wondering.

JPL Director Michael Watkins to Return to Academia

"After having served five years as director of JPL, Michael Watkins will move to the Caltech campus as professor of aerospace and geophysics. Larry D. James becomes interim director of JPL. JPL Director Michael Watkins announced Monday he will step down from his position as the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to resume his academic and research career at Caltech as professor of aerospace and geophysics. His last day as JPL director will be Aug. 20. JPL is a federally funded research and development center managed by Caltech for NASA."

Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"How close the station had come to disaster is an open question, and the flight director humorously alluded to it in a later tweet that he'd never been so happy as when he saw on external TV cameras that the solar arrays and radiators were still standing straight in place. And any excessive bending stress along docking interfaces between the Russian and American segments would have demanded quick leak checks. But even if the rotation was "simple," the undeniably dramatic event has both short term and long-term significance for the future of the space station. And it has antecedents dating back to the very birth of the ISS in 1997."

Keith's note: The first person I thought of when this happened was Jim Oberg. Back in the 90s Jim and I were tag teaming coverage of things that happened on board Mir as part of the Phase 1 effort to build a joint U.S./Russian space station out of what was once Mir-2 and Space Station Freedom. NASA was not happy with what we reported. Much of what we uncovered spoke to bad communications between the U.S. and Russian teams, an underlying level of distrust, and a lot of ad hoc decision making. But the over-arching intent on both sides was to make things work - since things simply had to work - and to put forth that unified front - especially when things got rocky.

These items from 1997 come to mind:

Charlie Harlan's Thoughts on Spaceflight Safety, 29 June 1997

"When NASA originally began the Shuttle/Mir Program, no rigorous safety analysis or risk analysis was accomplished. NASA decided based on the then understood historical performance of safe Mir operations to accept that record as a given. This was done by a subjective review process unlike the systematic safety and reliability analytical techniques utilized for U.S. human spaceflight. If you remember, at that time the Russians were not always forthright about their systems failures or some of the problems they had in the past. The decision was made at the highest levels of NASA, and the formal safety analysis that was established for the Phase I Program was only for the new joint operations activities, new experiments, and new procedures. The acceptance of the existing Mir safety record was driven by management judgment, and therefore for formal and structured documented risk baseline exists for the start of the program. It should be very clear to everyone that the risk level to human safety on the Mir Station has increased somewhat since the early management decisions and agreements were made."

Better-Cheaper-Faster: The Risk of Being Open and Honest (Part 1), 16 July 1997

"Instead, PAO reverts to its least open behavior on the Shuttle/Mir program. A harbinger of things to come on ISS? Individuals who are allowed to speak for NASA are thoroughly briefed so as to know what NOT to say. Press releases are diluted and sanitized. I get all the internal NASA email, so I see what doesn't make it on TV - or the press wires. I hear all the stories from frustrated program managers who speak of PAO saying things such as "why do they need to know this" or "we'd rather not let that out right now".

Keith's note: Echoes from the past. Example: the sanitized stuff that dribbled out of NASA PAO after the Nauka event designed to minimize details as to what actually happened and to accentuate the level of cooperation between the U.S., Russia, and other ISS partners. I guess we'll have to wait for one of those one hour Aerospace Safety Advisory Committee telecon meetings at some point in the future - the sort of meeting NASA PAO never announces - where the truth will start to dribble out - as it did after Mir and other accidents.

Jim also recounts the rocky first hours of the launch of FGB-1 - aka Zarya - on 20 November 1998. It refused to obey firing commands and the U.S. was kept in the dark for a while. Flash forward to 2021 and its twin - Nauka - originally built as FGB-2 as the back up for FGB-1 (paid for by the U.S.) had similar problems once reaching space.

To be certain the International Space Station program has been a resounding success overall and future international efforts could do well to learn from it. Given the continued bad blood between the U.S. and Russia it is astonishing that the ISS has managed to exist - literally and politically - above the fray of terrestrial squabbles. Indeed, it has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as a result - an idea I personally thing is worth pursuing. I am one of the 100,000+ people who designed and built this amazing spacecraft - one that was paid for by over a billion taxpayers. And I call it the "Undiscovered Country" since I feel its fullest potential has yet to be tapped.

But, accomplishments and potential aside, this does not mean that the picture onboard the ISS is perfect. It is not. Underneath the orbital comradery there are still problems. The ISS program just declared the first "spacecraft emergency" in its entire existence on orbit. That is big news, right? Yet NASA and Roscosmos do not want to talk about it. Why is that?

I hope Congress holds a hearing on this - just like they did after the fire and collision on Mir a quarter of a century ago. If something is broken then it needs to be fixed - even if NASA won't admit that there is a problem. And what is it they say about people and organizations who have problems? The first step is to admit that there is a problem.

Nauka Was An Accident Waiting To Happen And NASA Knew, earlier post

Keith's note: OK space fans. While the focus of this taxpayer policy advertisement is not a majority opinion, it is not an infrequently heard one either. To be certain, the organization trying to push for tax reform abducted the images and symbolism of the Branson/Bezos flights and used it for a gratuitous flyby attention grabber - because, why not? It works.

Meanwhile, outside the space bubble, out in the real world, where people are unemployed, facing disease and possibly eviction, and otherwise not experiencing the happiest, forward-looking of times, seeing ultra-rich people cavorting in space is perhaps not the best way to advertise the promise of space. I'm not suggesting that these commercial efforts stop. Rather, that people in a position to influence events and public commentary pause for a moment to think of ways to counter the negative impact of the space tourism thing with mention of space-related things of basic, commonplace societal benefit.

NASA is not going to do this since NASA has never really demonstrated that skillset. And they will never have it. Rather, its something that others should be thinking about right now. Just a thought.

This angry taxpayer ad is not the only one to borrow the space meme to make a point. There are many others. You may not go for what Big Oil is trying to put forth in their ads, but they do portray space as something hopeful. It is possible. Just sayin'

Or this ad which speaks to young people who think about space - a lot.

Oh yes, then there's this space program analogy in an op ed yesterday about preparing for the next pandemic - from the President's science advisor ...

As bad as covid-19 has been, a future pandemic could be even worse -- unless we act now, Opinion, Eric Lander, Washington Post

"These goals are ambitious, but they're feasible -- provided the work is managed with the seriousness, focus and accountability of NASA's Apollo Program, which sent humans to the moon."

Warren Leary

Keith's update: I just learned that Warren Leary died suddenly yesterday. Warren was one of the very first actual journalists I got to know when I started doing NASAWatch. He was a consumate pro with a strong social conscience and a warm heart. I always enjoyed my interactions with him. He was the sort of old fashioned journalist who just pushed through every story to get at the core of what was going on. Although it has been a few years since I last saw him, I will always remember that huge smile of his. Ad Astra my friend.

Warren Leary, LinkedIn

"Warren E. Leary is a retired science correspondent for The New York Times. A journalist who has specialized in science writing for more than 35 years, he is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and received an M.S. degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Leary began his science writing career with the Associated Press, creating the science beat in the Boston bureau of the news agency from 1971 through 1976, and continuing as a senior science writer for the AP in its Washington bureau from 1976 until 1989, when he joined the staff of The Times. As an award-winning journalist based in Washington, Leary has covered space flight, technology, engineering, aeronautics, and medical science, as well as policy issues and federal scientific agencies. He is on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and is a member and former officer of the National Association of Science Writers."

Keith's update: Just look for tweets with #ISSRDC on them. Right now the most prolific tweeter of ISRDC related coverage has been @NASAWatch - not NASA or CASIS. As a space person interested in what the Space Station has to offer I am very disappointed in NASA, HEOMD, and CASIS in the lack of online coverage of this important event.

NASA PAO only waited until the event was already underway to make mention of it. And now they are ignoring it once again. As one of the thousands of people who helped design and build the ISS this makes me angry that this amazing resource is ignored the way that NASA ignores it.

NIH Director Francis Collins was an enthusiastic, engaged, and topically knowledgeable participant as he interviewed Astronaut Kate Rubins today. The NIH director interviewing an astronaut. Wow. That has never happened before. Speaking from personal experience NASA has tried for years to get quality time and peer-to-peer visibility with NIH. They got it. So what do they do while the NIH Director appeared at the event to sing the praises of the ISS? NASA PAO showed boring footage of a rocket sitting on a launch pad waiting to go nowhere instead.

Keith's note: It's rather strange that NASA HEOMD and SMD don't bother to mention that the NIH Director is speaking at ISSRDC.This sort of inter-agency cooperation is what the Biden Administration's "whole of government" approach is all about. Having Francis Collins speak is quite a distinction - one that NASA's Space Station program has sought for a long time. Now that it has happened NASA Headquarters ignores it by not even bothering to put it on NASA TV. Go figure.

NASA Can't Figure Out How To Promote Good News About Space, 22 July post

"With all of these excellent guest speakers, you'd think that HEOMD AA Kathy Lueders and the HEOMD team would be wanting to tell everyone about this. Guess again. There is nothing mentioned on the NASA Space Station or Humans in Space web pages. There is no mention on the NASA Science Mission Directorate home page or the SMD NASA Biological & Physical Sciences page. Nothing is listed on the NASA TV schedule for this event. No NASA media advisories or press releases have been put out."

Keith's note: Today Vice President Harris is announcing the selection of Chirag Parikh as Executive Secretary of the National Space Council. Mr. Parikh is from Ohio and a veteran of the U.S government with over 20 years of experience. During the Obama-Biden Administration from 2010-2016, Mr. Parikh served as the White House Director of Space Policy on the National Security Council. In this position, he led the formulation and execution of national space policies and strategies; advised the President and National Security Advisor on civil, commercial, and national security space matters; and led efforts to reform how the Nation deals with threats to space systems.

Nanoracks Appoints Marshall Smith as Senior Vice President of Commercial Space Stations

"Nanoracks, a Voyager Space Holdings Company, has appointed Marshall Smith, the former Deputy Associate Administrator (DAA) for NASA's Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I), Human Exploration and Operations (HEO), as Senior Vice President of Commercial Space Stations."

Statements on Senate Confirmation of Margaret Vo Schaus as NASA CFO

"It's an honor to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chief financial officer at NASA and I am grateful for the opportunity to help carry on this agency's great legacy both in space and here on Earth," said Vo Schaus. "I look forward to working with Administrator Nelson and Deputy Administrator Melroy to oversee NASA's budget to support the workforce and the groundbreaking missions ahead. The budget is not just about enabling us to explore the cosmos - it allows us to create educational opportunities, incredible jobs, and inspire the next generation of astronauts and scientists here on Earth, who continue to raise the standard for scientific excellence around the globe. As we continue to explore the universe, expand critical Earth science research to combat climate change, and maintain the world's most talented workforce, I am fully committed to helping ensure the president and administrator's vision is carried out here at NASA."

Name of Information Collection: Generic Clearance for the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Performance Measurement and Evaluation (Testing), Federal Register

"Methodological testing will include focus group discussions, pilot surveys to test new individual question items as well as the complete form and instrument. In addition, test-retest and similar protocols will be used to determine reliability characteristics of the forms and instruments. Methodological testing will assure that forms and instruments accurately and consistently collect and measure what they are intended to measure and that data collection items are interpreted precisely and consistently, all towards the goal of accurate Agency reporting while improving the execution of NASA STEM Engagement activities.

Affected Public: Individuals and Households.
Estimated Annual Number of Activities: 8.
Estimated Number of Respondents per Activity: 2,800.
Annual Responses: 1.
Estimated Time per Response: 15 minutes.
Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 5,600.
Estimated Total Annual Cost: $54,082."

Keith's note: This effort will involve 5,600 hours of work at a total annual cost of $54,082. Let's do some simple math. You get a pay rate of $9.68 an hour. Minimum wage is set at $7.25 but states are raising it. DC raised its rate to $15.25. The states around NASA HQ - Virgina - raised it to $9.50 and Maryland - raised to $11.75. So people are being paid at or probably below minimum wage to do all of this fancy "methodical testing", data collection and interpretation. If this is about civil servant labor then this rate/hour total simply makes no sense. That said it strikes me as odd that you'd entrust something as complex as this to people earning less than the minimum wage. Or is this just one of those boilerplate Federal Register notices that really do not actually mean anything?


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