December 2021 Archives

International Space Station Operations Formally Extended Through 2030

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced today the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations through 2030, and to work with our international partners in Europe (ESA, European Space Agency), Japan (JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Canada (CSA, Canadian Space Agency), and Russia (State Space Corporation Roscosmos) to enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory through the rest of this decade."

NASA 'looks to the heavens' for help: Agency enlists 24 theologians to assess how the world would react to the discovery of alien life on distant planets and how it might change our perception of gods and creation, Daily Mail

"NASA is looking to the heavens for help with assessing how humans will react if alien life is found on other planets and how the discovery could impact our ideas of gods and creation. The agency is hiring 24 theologians to take part in its program at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) at Princeton University in New Jersey, which NASA gave a $1.1 million grant to in 2014. CTI is described as building 'bridges of under understanding by convening theologians, scientists, scholars, and policymakers to think together - and inform public thinking - on global concerns.'"

NASA did NOT hire priests, for pete's sake, Linda Billings

"The oh-so-reliable (NOT) Newsmax also repeated this story, reporting, "NASA Taps Theologians to Assess How Humans Will React if Life Found on Other Planets." At least this story said, "NASA is reportedly hiring two dozen theologians to take part in a program at Princeton University to assess how humans will react if alien life is found on other planets." The reports, however, are incorrect. And also CTI is not Princeton University. CTI happens to be in Princeton, New Jersey, but it has no affiliation with the university. Okay, I've had enough. You probably have, too. Though I've discussed these stories with some of my NASA astrobiology colleagues, no one asked me to write this post. I wrote it because this kind of sloppy journalism annoys the heck out of me. It amazes me to see how careless some journalists are about reporting without any fact-checking. Dr. Davison appears to be the source of all these stories. Maybe he'll sell some books."

Keith's note: This wildly incorrect story about NASA hiring priests has made the rounds - and other news organizations have now written stories - about this story - without even bothering to verify things with NASA. The original story was featured on Drudge Report - so hundreds of millions of people - globally - saw it. But no one at NASA PAO apparently did. Or if they did see it they could not be bothered to contact the various reporters, ask for retractions, issue a clarification, etc. But one person who supports NASA's Astrobiology program, Linda Billings, did her best - on her own time - at her own initiative - to set the record straight.

Michael "Rich" Clifford

Webb Mission Updates

James Webb Space Telescope 26 December, 2021 Update - First Mid-Course Correction Burn Completed, NASA

"At 7:50 pm EST, December 25, 2021, Webb's first mid-course correction burn began. It lasted 65 minutes and is now complete. This burn is one of two milestones that are time critical -- the first was the solar array deployment, which happened shortly after launch."

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope launches in French Guiana, Washington Post

"Tens of thousands of people have committed over 20 years or more on a single project," Matt Mountain, an astronomer who is part of the team that designed the telescope, said at the telescope institute just minutes before launch Saturday. "And why? Why have they committed this time? We solve incredibly hard problems. It's part of the human spirit. We're curious. We explore."

Webb Launch Coverage

The James Webb Space Telescope Has Left Earth

"The James Webb Space Telescope is safely in space, powered on and communicating with ground controllers. Webb continues in coast phase, and is now oriented correctly with respect to the Sun. At approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb's solar array began to open up. It is now fully deployed and we have confirmed that the spacecraft is power positive."

James Webb Space Telescope Launch Replay



Holiday Schedule

Keith's note: We're going to mostly take the next week or so off. But I'll be updating on the Webb mission on a daily basis and I will be on TV here and there as well talking about that. Or not. Hope y'all take some time to truly relax.

Tensions with Russia are now spilling into space, complicating International Space Station partnership, Washington Post

"But the fragile coalition that has kept the space station going all these years is fraying, as tensions between Russia and the United States, the two main partners on the station, grow to levels not seen in years. And while the countries have kept their alliance on the station going despite geopolitical tensions, the fence that has kept the station and civil space endeavors walled off from other problems is beginning to erode."

A domestic newspaper warns of the Russian space program's "rapid collapse", Ars Technica

"A long and strikingly critical article that reviews the state of the Russian space program was published in the state-aligned newspaper MK this week. None of the findings in the 2,800-word article were particularly surprising. Western observers who track the Russian space industry realize the program is deeply troubled, and to a great extent running on the fumes of its past and very real glory. What is notable, however, is that a major Russian media outlet has published such a revelatory article for a domestic audience."

Zurbuchen +5

Thomas Zurbuchen: Reflecting On Five Years At NASA

"I recently celebrated my five-year anniversary at NASA. Over these past 5 years, we have seen great success with NASA's Science missions.

From landing on Mars to learning more about our home planet than ever before, teams across the agency are making the impossible possible. Without the incredible individuals that make up the excellent teams at NASA and its partners, none of this would be possible. So, thank you to all the people and teams that have worked with us over these 5 years to make new discoveries and push the boundaries of exploration.

With this 5-year milestone, I have been reflecting on a few of my biggest mistakes. I also hope this motivates others because it models a key truth of leadership that took me a long time to learn: "excellence is not the absence of mistakes, but a focus on constant improvement and learning".

One thing that comes to the top of my mind is my failure early on to broaden my message regarding diversity and inclusion at NASA. This resulted in inadvertently putting up walls that kept some valuable communities out in ways I never intended. Let me explain."


Hans Mark

'God of aerospace engineering': Hans Mark, former UT chancellor who fled Nazis, dies at 92, Austin Americqn statesman

"Aerospace engineer Hans Mark, a former University of Texas System chancellor who escaped the Nazis as a boy and grew up to help put a man on the moon, died Saturday morning. Mark was 92. He died at Westminster senior home in Austin and had suffered from progressive dementia."

Keith's note: Ad Astra.

Blue Loses Two

Reliable Robotics Expands Commercial Team with Key Executive Hires

"A.C. Charania, Vice President of Product Strategy ... will further develop the product and service architectures for the Remotely Operated Aircraft System."

Voyager Space Announces Clay Mowry as Chief Revenue Officer

"Voyager Space, a global leader in space exploration, today announced the appointment of Clay Mowry as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). Mowry, a space industry veteran and seasoned business strategist, joins Voyager from Blue Origin where he served as the Vice President of Global Sales. As CRO, Mowry will lead revenue and sales operations for the company and its subsidiaries."

Social media helps friends, family attend funeral of Navy Veteran Farrell Corley

"A Navy veteran was laid to rest at Fort Sill National Cemetery Tuesday, surrounded by friends, family and community members paying their respects. Navy Commander Farrell Corley was originally listed as an unclaimed veteran, but thanks to the power of social media, family and friends that previously couldn't be located were in attendance. As a result, Tuesday we were able to learn more about the military career of Corley and, more importantly, the man he was. "As spectacular as all of his achievements are, they pale in comparison to him as a man. As a human being," said Retired Captain John Keilty Jr., who served with Corley. "Ladies and gentlemen, Farrell Corley was good. Only the best get to fly the F-14 Tomcat."

Keith's update: FYI Former Astronaut Bill Readdy saw this post on NASAWatch and was involved in reaching Captain Keilty such that he could be at the service. Others saw this post and others on the Internet and made similar efforts to reach people. Thanks to everyone involved.

Blue Origin Launches 6 New Astronauts Into Space, SpaceRef

"The third crewed flight of a Blue Origin New Shepard launch system was conducted today. The "RSS First Step" left Earth just after 10:00 am ET for a quick flight above the Karman Line followed by a perfect landing of the booster and space capsule at the Texas launch site. On board were Dylan Taylor, Voyager Space; Michael Strahan, ABC; investor Evan Dick; Lane Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son Cameron Bess; and Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of the first US astronaut Alan Shepard."

Keith's note: The 2021 NASA Space Apps Challenge winners were announced today. I have posted an annotated list below. This is one of the finest worldwide outreach efforts that NASA has ever done over the half century of its existence. It is a superb example of the use of NASA's global branding in a synergistic, soft power fashion. Alas, while Thomas Zurbuchen at SMD has openly embraced this effort, over the past decade the rest of NASA has given only lukewarm mention - if any. I will have a detailed look at this project online on Monday.

NASA's 10th Space Apps Challenge Increases Global Participation, earlier post

NASA International Space Apps Challenge Winners

Best Use of Science - Ani's Cuff (Seeing the unseeable - Viewing Bugs from Space) Taipei, Taiwan - "Our lives hinge on the wellbeing of insects; at the same time, insect biodiversity is disproportionately affected by human actions. Your challenge is to develop innovative ways to advance our ability to detect insect life, track and predict change over time, and communicate that information to scientists and society to combat the loss of insect biodiversity."

Best Use of Data - Cambridge Asteroids - Cambridge, UK - "From Earth, the Trojan asteroids appear to be single points of light; their light curves - the way their observed brightness varies with time - are one of the few clues available to scientists working to determine the shapes of these distant bodies. Your challenge is to design a tool that allows users to explore how the shape of an asteroid affects the appearance of its light curve."

Best Use of Technology - Change Maker - Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia - "NASA produces a variety of surface solar and meteorological data parameters that are useful to commercial renewable energy and sustainable building ventures, but this information is not easily accessible to the typical homeowner. Your challenge is to develop a mobile application to access the information on NASA's Prediction of Worldwide renewable Energy Resources (POWER) web services portal and provide useful information about sunshine to the general public."

Galactic Impact - 4 SEEDS Chino Hills, CA - "A viable food system for long-duration exploration missions does not yet exist, but it will be necessary to maintain crew health and performance. Your challenge is to design a deployable crop production system capable of supporting the nutritional requirements of a crew of 4-6 on a transit mission to Mars and back to Earth."

Best Mission Concept - Mohakash (Virtual Planetary Exploration v2.0) - Khulna - "Future astronauts will conduct various activities in space and on or near celestial bodies to help us learn about their mission destinations, Earth, and our universe. Your challenge is to create interactive 3D models of equipment (e.g., planetary geology tools) that future space explorers might use for activities like exploring a planetary surface."

Most Inspirational - Bioshi (Space for Change) - Panama - "Marginalized communities are often disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards. Your challenge is to use NASA's Earth observation data to: 1) identify regions where such environmental injustice occurs, and 2) design implementable solutions that enable equitable outcomes."

Best Story Telling - Space Travellers from Guayaquil, Guayas Ecuador - "Long-distance space travel comes with a multitude of health risks, but it is difficult to imagine the combined effects of these risks, especially for those who are not fluent in NASA jargon. Your challenge is to create an educational game for middle schoolers (approx. ages 10-14) that focuses on keeping an avatar alive and healthy during a voyage from Earth to Mars and back, and that identifies the most difficult challenges and the biggest risks involved in human spaceflight."

Award for Global Connection - EAGLE AI (Leveraging AI/ML for plastic marine debris) (Global) - "AI tracking system to track and follow ocean plastic with up to 100% accuracy "Marine debris is one of the most pervasive threats to the health of coastal areas, oceans, and waterways. Your challenge is to leverage Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning to monitor, detect, and quantify plastic pollution and increase our understanding about using these techniques for this purpose."

Arts and Technology - Jimmy In The Box (Webb Origami Design Challenge) Boston MA - "The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA's next premier space science observatory and will fulfill the agency's vision to "discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Your challenge is to create origami artwork that looks like the James Webb Space Telescope and showcases Webb as a technological and design marvel using an "arts-meets-science" approach."

Global Award Winner - Landslide Detection Squad - Perth, Australia - "Landslides often interfere with the economic development of rural communities. Your challenge is to develop a tool that uses data from NASA satellites and ground-based sources to determine the risk of landslides in rural communities and share the results with local communities and governments."

NASA to Dedicate, Rename Rocket Park for Former Director George Abbey

"Media are invited to attend the dedication of Rocket Park at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for former director George W.S. Abbey in a ceremony at 10 a.m. CST Friday, Dec. 10. Home to one of only three Saturn V rockets on display in the world, the facility will now be known as George W.S. Abbey Rocket Park. The Apollo rocket housed inside a protective building there is the only one comprised of all flight-certified hardware capable entering orbit around the Moon. The 36-story Saturn V was restored over the course of two years, from 2005 to 2007, and has been on loan to Johnson from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum collection since 1977. Outside, additional artifacts from the early human spaceflight program are on display."

Mark Geyer

Keith's note: Former NASA Center Director Mark Geyer has died. NASA PAO will have a statement soon.

Ad Astra, Mark.

NASA Administrator Pays Tribute to Senior Advisor Mark Geyer, NASA

"Today, we mourn the loss of a giant for human spaceflight and a beloved member of the NASA family: former Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer. I offer my deepest condolences to Mark's wife, Jackie, his three children, and the entire Geyer family. "Like so many Americans, Mark spent his childhood watching the Gemini and Apollo missions. It inspired him to join NASA. It is difficult to overstate the difference he made."

Journey to the Dream -- Part I, Dylan Taylor

"As I wrap up Part 1 of this blog series, I want to announce a set of gifts that I would ask all other commercial astronauts to consider. I call it buy one, give one, a term I first heard coined by my friends Ami Dror and Navyn Salem. It is simple, donate to worthy causes here on Earth the equivalent of the ticket price for the spaceflight. Commercial Astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years. The impact that cohort could have here on Earth if they all supported this initiative could be very substantial."

Journey to the Dream -- Part II, Dylan Taylor

"I strongly believe that our current focus on reaching space doesn't mitigate our focus on important causes and issues that impact life here on Earth. On the contrary, I believe our collective future in space is fully dependent on us addressing seemingly intractable problems here on Earth. Those problems require perspective and they require resources. Commercial astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years and if they were to all help support an initiative on Earth, their impact could create significant accessible and diversified space exploration opportunities and advancement for humanity here on Earth."

Journey to the Dream -- Part III, Dylan Taylor

"With the simulator (affectionately known as the tortoise) we are able to experience a mission from start to finish, many times over. This has two primary benefits. First, we will know what to expect on launch day, not only in terms of what will happen but the order and timing of each event. And, secondly, we can practice many different scenarios for emergency response and "what-if." After my first full day of training, I can honestly say I learned more about the New Shepard launch system in one day, then I had gleaned in several years of following the program. That is how good the training and trainers are at Blue Origin."

Biden to warn Putin of economic pain if he invades Ukraine, AP

"President Joe Biden is ready to warn Vladimir Putin during a video call Tuesday that Russia will face economy-jarring sanctions if it invades neighboring Ukraine as Biden seeks a diplomatic solution to deal with the tens of thousands of Russian troops massed near the Ukraine border. Biden aims to make clear that his administration stands ready to take actions against the Kremlin that would exact "a very real cost" on the Russian economy, according to White House officials. Putin, for his part, is expected to demand guarantees from Biden that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long sought membership. That's a non-starter for the Americans and their NATO allies."

Keith's note: Other than weird things like the mystery drill holes - and cost negotiations for rides on Soyuz - the US/Russia relationship within the ISS program has been very smooth and productive. Remarkably so. When you compare this to the rest of the US/Russia dynamic relationship, the ISS experience shines even brighter. Small wonder that some people have floated the notion of nominating ISS for the Nobel Peace Prize. That said, with mounting tensions in Ukraine, it is going to be interesting to see how well the ISS remains isolated from this - and when (inevitably?) it gets sucked in.

NASA Selects Companies to Develop Commercial Destinations in Space

The total estimated award amount for all three funded Space Act Agreements is $415.6 million. The companies that received awards are:

Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, for $130 million
Nanoracks LLC, of Houston for $160 million
Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, for $125.6 million

- Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin Awarded NASA Contract to Build First-of-its-Kind Commercial Space Station
- Northrop Grumman Signs Agreement with NASA to Design Space Station for Low Earth Orbit
- NASA Selects Orbital Reef to Develop Space Station Replacement

Vice President Highlights STEM in First National Space Council Meeting, NASA

"Vice President Kamala Harris chaired the first National Space Council meeting of the Biden-Harris Administration Wednesday, Dec. 1 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. Prior to the meeting, President Biden expanded the number of participants of the council by executive order, reflecting the Biden-Harris administration's broad priorities and creating the largest, most diverse space council in the nation's history."

Executive Order on the National Space Council

"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Purpose. The National Space Council (Council), as authorized under Title V of Public Law 100-685, advises and assists the President regarding national space policy and strategy. This order sets forth the Council's membership, duties, and responsibilities."

The following information was provided on background from a White House Official:

On Wednesday, December 1 at 1:30pm EST, Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the Biden-Harris Administration's inaugural National Space Council meeting at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. The Vice President, who chairs the National Space Council, will deliver remarks laying out the Administration's whole-of-government approach to ensuring that space activities create opportunities that benefit the American people and the world.

NASA: Lessons from Ongoing Major Projects Can Inform Management of Future Space Telescopes, GAO

"The projects in NASA's current portfolio of major space telescopes--JWST, Roman, and SPHEREx--have roots in past decadal surveys on Astronomy and Astrophysics from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. NASA is now considering the results of the National Academies' 2020 decadal survey, which may spur new projects in this portfolio. NASA has made improvements in acquisition management in recent years, but it remains a long-standing challenge for the agency. ... In prior work, GAO has made recommendations to improve NASA's acquisition of major projects. NASA generally agreed with most of those recommendations and implemented changes in response. As of November 2021, NASA has not fully addressed eight open priority recommendations related to monitoring program costs and execution. Those recommendations were detailed most recently in a report to the NASA Administrator in June 2021."

Original Document (PDF)

Space activities are essential to our way of life. They advance our understanding of the Earth, the universe, and humanity; enable U.S. national security; create good jobs and economic opportunity; enhance our health and well-being; and inspire us to pursue our dreams. Space capabilities provide critical data, products, and services that drive innovation in the United States and around the world. Access to and use of space is a vital national interest.

We are in a historic moment: space activities are rapidly accelerating, resulting in new opportunities in multiple sectors of society, as well as new challenges to U.S. space leadership, global space governance, the sustainability of the space environment, and safe and secure space operations. Burgeoning U.S. space activities are a source of American strength at home and abroad - from providing tangible economic and societal benefits to Americans to expanding our network of alliances and partnerships. The United States will bolster the health and vitality of our space sectors - civil, commercial, and national security - for the benefit of the American people and leverage that strength to lead the international community in preserving the benefits of space for future generations.



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This page is an archive of entries from December 2021 listed from newest to oldest.

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January 2022 is the next archive.

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