January 2022 Archives

NASA Provides Updated International Space Station Transition Plan, NASA

"As NASA looks forward to a decade of results from research and technology development aboard the International Space Station, the agency is taking steps to ensure a successful transition of operations to commercial services. In response to Congressional direction, NASA has now provided an updated International Space Station Transition Report that details the goals for the next decade of station operations leading to a smooth transition to commercial services, the steps being taken to develop both the supply and demand side of the low-Earth orbit commercial economy, and the technical steps and budget required for transition."

Selection Statement For Commercial LEO Destinations (Announcement Number 80JSC021CLD), NASA (PDF)

"In order to cost-effectively meet U.S. long-term research and technology development needs in LEO, a robust commercial human spaceflight economy must be established including commercial destinations and new markets to allow various customers access to a broad portfolio of commercial products and services. Development and operation of a commercial destination to provide those services will require significant private investment over many years and significant non-NASA demand to ensure long-term financial viability."

Keith's note: In case you have not noticed the U.S. government says that Russia is about to invade Ukraine. The U.S. is sending weapons and mobilizing troops. NATO is fortifying its borders. Oh yes, this impending conflict actual war would involve nearly every single participating nation in the International Space Station program. Until now the ISS has managed to weather virtually all terrestrial political squabbles between its participants. Indeed, there is an ongoing effort to get the ISS program nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Recently, however, Russia has threatened the safety of the ISS with space weapon tests, an out of control Nauka engine firing flipped the ISS on its side precipitating an emergency declaration, and accusations about a hole that was drilled in a Soyuz in Russia has led to goofy accusations against American astronauts.

So ... what happens if/when the bullets start to fly? Will everyone on ISS just focus on their day job? Or will one or more country put ISS operations on their list of things to threaten sanctions over? If indeed war does break out - and the ISS program manages to survive and thrive - then I do not know how anyone could deny the whole Nobel Peace Prize thing. Stay tuned.

Caltech Names Laurie Leshin Director of JPL

"The distinguished geochemist and space scientist brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in academic and government service to JPL. Laurie Leshin, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been appointed director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and vice president of Caltech. Leshin will formally assume her position on May 16, 2022."

From 2011: Scott Parazynski, Chairman of the Challenger Center Board of Directors sitting in the jetstream on the summit of Mt. Everest, May 2009: "I tied off a pair of flags I'd made to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who had perished in the line of duty (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11), as I could think of no finer place on Earth to hang them. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, like their Tibetan prayer flag counterparts, they will weather under the wind, sun and snow, and slowly lift back up into the heavens." More photos.


NASA Pays Tribute to Fallen Heroes with Day of Remembrance

"Various NASA centers also will hold observances for NASA Day of Remembrance. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year's events across the agency will be limited to invited guests and closed to media."

Keith's note: Like many other people in the DC area I have been going to these Arlington memorial events as often as I could for more than 30 years - especially when I served on the board of directors of the Challenger Center For Space Science Education. This event is held in a huge public outdoor place but NASA now uses COVID as an excuse to limit attendance. Anyone who has been there knows that this is a vast open space. This really sad.

Keith's update: I heard from a back channel at NASA PAO that the Arlington National Cemetery event starts at 1:00 pm and that the public can attend. But media have to get clearance. That's not going to happen. There will be no bus from NASA HQ so a car pass (impossible to get) will be needed to drive in. I could just walk in - except the last time I did that several years ago the cemetery cops stopped me and detained me for 30 minutes claiming that the NASA memorial event was a "private" memorial event and that I needed an actual invitation and car pass to proceed. Last year I made a formal request to NASA to attend and was told quite clearly that I could not attend. This badly worded media release demonstrates the lack of transparency that Wayne Hale was talking about at the NAC meeting a week or so ago. Why bother to put a press release out that is accurate and not misleading.

NASA Needs a Lead Program Office for Artemis, Op Ed, Kevin Chilton, Space News

"It's time to take the best lessons from our past and meld them with the promises of today's technologies and innovative industrial base. It's time to stand up an Artemis Program Office, modeled after the Apollo Program Office, with the long-term strategic vision for human exploration of Mars as its guiding star, but with a near-term laser focus on getting us back to the moon to stay -- safely, on schedule, and within budget."

Keith's note: Newsflash Kevin: the whole "on schedule, and within budget" thing just ain't gonna happen since the schedule and budget have slipped, non-stop for more than a decade. Unless you have a time machine, your rationale for doing Apollo 2.0 program management is impossible - unless you just move the goal posts yet again to artificially reset schedule and budget.

But wait: "SLS... is the only rocket that can currently send Orion, astronauts, and cargo to the moon in a single mission." Really Kevin? There's a lander on that SLS stack along with Orion?

Then there's this amazing revelation on Kevin's part: "Going forward, it will be critical for NASA to incentivize and hold key contractors accountable for meeting performance, cost, and schedule targets." Well DUH. How did we all miss that for the past half century?

The mindset put forth in this op ed would have NASA discard all of the progress it has made in space commerce out of nostalgia for a program management style from the Cold War - one utilized barely 20 years after World War II. NASA is not going to suddenly change its stripes because everyone has a new mail code.

NASA JPL Memo: Bobby Braun Departing JPL

"Bobby Braun, Director for Planetary Science and Bren Professor of Aerospace at Caltech, has accepted the position of Space Exploration Sector Head of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and will be leaving JPL at the end of March 2022. Even as I am sad that the Lab is losing a great leader, I would like to congratulate Bobby on his new role and expect that we will be crossing paths in a number of ways in the future."

Applied Physics Laboratory Memo: Appointment of Space Exploration Sector Head, JHU APL

"Bobby will be succeeding Mike Ryschkewitsch, who announced in October his intention to retire. As I indicated then, Mike led SES during a pivotal time, and we are deeply appreciative of his outstanding leadership and many impressive contributions to the Laboratory and our nation."

NAC Vs PAO On Transparency

Keith's note: To Mark McDaniel - thanks - Its nice to see that the "NASA Administrator's Symposium: Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea And The Stars" event that Sean O'Keefe, John Grunsfeld, and I put together is still relevant. FYI Wayne Hale ordered a box of the event's proceedings to use as a textbook when he was at JSC. And yes, I think another event is long overdue. The proceedings are online here at NASA.

One Year into the Biden Administration, NASA Looks to Future

"Since President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn in one year ago, their administration has made generational progress for Americans - and made NASA a priority. This spring, as Artemis I lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, the world will once again witness America's unrivaled ingenuity and inspiration as NASA prepares the next generation to return to the Moon and on to Mars," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "I am proud of the work the agency has done to support this administration's priorities on climate change, global leadership, diversity, equity, STEM education, and so much more. And we all should look forward to an even more robust future as NASA continues to explore the heavens and benefit life here on Earth."

John Charles

Keith's note: John Charles has died. I'll post more information when I get it. I first met John in 1987 during what was the first week or two working for NASA when I made a trip to JSC. He was such a nice man. No one believed more in NASA than John did. According to a note circulating around NASA: "The life sciences directorate at JSC is coordinating a flag-raising at Mission Control and fundraising for a memorial tree. [it] would be great to fund a couple of aerospace physiology graduate school scholarships in his name."

Ad Astra, John.

Keith's update: The following note has been circulating at NASA: "Space Medicine Association, which is an AsMA constituent organization of which John is a past president, is setting up a John Charles scholarship. For people who would like to donate to the scholarship fund, here is the information:

Here is how people can donate:
- go to www.AsmaFoundation.org
- click on "Ways to give"
- click on the Donate button
- enter amount and other information as requested
- in the notes section write " in memory of Dr. John Charles" or "SMA Dr. John B Charles Scholarship Fund"

Note: The Foundation is a 501c3 charitable organization so donations are tax deductible. We will direct all donations to the SMA fund within the Foundation. The Space Medicine Association will create the Scholarship and will include Kathy Charles in the development of the details."

Keith's note: At this morning's NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee meeting,, the committee chair, Wayne Hale, offered these observations:

Keith's note: The NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee is meeting today and tomorrow. Here's my summary/preview.

Keith's note: Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), 1 kilometer in diameter will fly by Earth today 4.51 p.m. ET. It is moving at 47,344 miles per hour and will get no closer than 1.2 million miles. I was on CNN this morning to talk about this fly by and NASA's DART mission to impact another asteroid, (65803) Didymos this Fall.

Always Look Toward The Stars

Sometimes it seems that everyone on Earth is wearing a NASA T-shirt, Washington Post

"Go to any college campus, Ulrich said, and there are "kids there with NASA shirts on. You see it on the subway. You see it on the street. It's just proliferating." It sure is. Last year, Ulrich said, the agency received 11,000 merchandising requests from companies that wanted to use the logo on some sort of object. NASA doesn't license the logo, it gives approval and requires that merchandisers follows its guidelines. For example, it can't be used on alcohol, food, cosmetics, tobacco, underwear or technology, and when it is used, it has to be the proper font, color, etc."

- Yet Another Example Of The Global Reach Of The NASA Brand, earlier post

"NASA has done a good job - an increasingly good one - at allowing the logo's use - and not discouraging its use when the its is used in a positive and inspiring context. This is a consumate, textbook example of soft power. One would hope that NASA can continue along this path and that legislation that currently hinders NASA's ability to project its message via advertising and other venues - can be lifted by Congress."

- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, earlier post

"This is a perfect example of so-called "soft power". This costs NASA virtually - literally - nothing. Having worked with folks in Nepal on things related to this, the mere visibility of the NASA logo and recognition by NASA is enticement enough to generate in-country resources and support. Done properly you can have a global awareness of what NASA is and does and spark interest in other nation's space efforts. And the cases where a country has no space activities, spur their development. One would hope that this becomes part of what NASA includes in its Artemis outreach activities - since the ultimate goal is to go there with other nations."

- OSTP Director Speaks About America's Potential Soft Power, earlier post
- NASA Builds A Global Soft Power Capability And Then Ignores It, earlier post
- Space Apps: NASA Soft Power With An Under Appreciated - Untapped Global Potential, earlier post
- Why Am I Doing This NASA Website Critique Stuff?, earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- NASA is Still A Potent (If Underutilized) Brand, earlier post
- Using NASA's Logo: Expensive T-Shirts Or Global Soft Power?, earlier post
- NASA's Pervasive Brand Recognition, earlier post
- One Major Road Block To Bridenstine's Advertising Ideas, earlier post

Donald Gurnett

Legendary Iowa space physicist Donald Gurnett dies

"Donald Gurnett, a pioneering space scientist whose career as a student, teacher, and researcher at the University of Iowa spanned more than 60 years, died on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. He was 81. When he retired in May 2019, Gurnett pointed to a litany of accomplishments that few--if any--will be able to match: He earned his undergraduate, master's, and doctoral degrees from Iowa, just when space exploration began; he is considered by many the founder of the field of space plasma wave physics; his discoveries include solving how auroras are created, the first detailed measure of radio emissions from the outer planets, and informing humankind of the first spacecraft to leave the solar system and reach the realm among the stars."

NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases 2021 Annual Report, ASAP

"... Funding such endeavors will obviously take considerable resources. However, history suggests (as shown in Figure 1) it is unlikely NASA's budget will ever again exceed 1% of the federal budget, as it did during the lead-up to the Apollo Program. Consequently, it will not be possible for NASA to single-handedly carry out all of the missions now envisioned. Considering its ambitious goals and con- strained budget, for NASA--and hence the United States--to continue to play a strategic leadership role in space, the Agency must transform. While private industry efforts are an ever more important factor in the U.S. government's future endeavors, the commercial sector alone has not, and will not, be the vehicle that drives national goals. Consequently, the Agency will need to operate differently--from strategic planning and how it approaches program management, to workforce development, facility maintenance, acquisition strategies, contract types, and partnerships."

"... In adopting this disaggregated, decentralized program structure between SLS, EGS, and Orion, with the view that it is a manageable alternative to the familiar and effective program framework that served it well for the Apollo, STS, and ISS programs, NASA has seemed to overlook the negative impacts to cohesive integrated risk management. In essence, it appears that the cancellation of the Constellation program has led to a cautious stance among NASA leaders driven by the assumption that having an Apollo-like program now is a problematic political optic, and like Constellation, a possible target for cancellation by a future Administration. In effect, NASA has accepted the disaggregated program structure as normal, and is now propagating this structure as a preferred business and risk management model, even though it is essentially an untried approach for an integrated systems engineering effort of this magnitude and complexity. Thus, behavior that was instantiated as a coping mechanism for unstable political guidance has become institutionalized--as has the embedded uncertainty in risk management. Furthermore, the Agency is attempting to manage the risk in the structure it has adopted without deliberately assessing why the structure is at least equivalent to, if not an improvement to, a more familiar structure, and whether it should be advanced as a wholly new program approach."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of Its Astronaut Corps, OIG

"... However, the astronaut corps is projected to fall below its targeted size or minimum manifest requirement in fiscal year (FY) 2022 and FY 2023 due to attrition and additional space flight manifest needs. More concerning, the Astronaut Office calculated that the corps size would exactly equal the number of flight manifest seats NASA will need in FY 2022. As a result, the Agency may not have a sufficient number of additional astronauts available for unanticipated attrition and crew reassignments or ground roles such as engaging in program development, staffing Astronaut Office leadership and liaison positions, and serving as spokespeople for the Agency. In light of the expanding space flight opportunities anticipated for the Artemis missions, the corps might be at risk of being misaligned in the future, resulting in disruptive crew reorganizations or mission delays.

... However, astronaut skillset data is not consistently collected, comprehensively organized, or regularly monitored or updated. The Chief and Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office said they can use various tracking systems, if needed, but given the small number of astronauts in the corps they primarily rely on their own informal knowledge to inform skillset decisions. While this kind of informal decision making has been used to manage ISS missions, it might not be effective as the size of the corps increases, still-evolving Artemis requirements are incorporated into astronaut training, and attempts to track skillsets over time for multiple missions become more complex.

... The Astronaut Office's personnel databases also lack comprehensive demographic information specific to the astronaut corps. This poses a challenge to assessing whether NASA is meeting Agency and Administration diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility objectives.

... As the Agency prepares for crewed Artemis missions, astronaut training needs will change. As with sizing, the current astronaut training framework is primarily aligned to ISS mission requirements. The Astronaut Office is in the process of developing a framework for Artemis training, but this framework has not been formally chartered nor have any Artemis crews been announced. As such, specific mission-focused training for the Artemis II mission--the first crewed Artemis flight--has not yet begun. the Agency could be overestimating the time available to develop and implement the necessary training framework and regimen across key Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), next-generation spacesuits, Human Landing . Delays in moving beyond the current ISS-focused approach for current and future astronauts increase the risk of delays in developing the necessary training to meet Artemis mission goals."

NASA Announces Katherine Calvin As New NASA Chief Scientist And Senior Climate Advisor

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that Dr. Katherine Calvin will serve the agency in dual roles as chief scientist and senior climate advisor effective Monday. Calvin succeeds Jim Green, who retired from his role Jan. 1 as chief scientist after more than 40 years of service at NASA, and Gavin Schmidt, who has served as senior climate advisor in an acting capacity since the position was created in February 2021. NASA established the senior climate advisor position to ensure effective fulfillment of the Biden-Harris Administration's climate science objectives for the agency. Schmidt will maintain his role as director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York."

Majority of Americans don't want to travel to the Moon, Axios

"The new poll found 61% of adults surveyed wouldn't be interested in taking a trip to the Moon even if money weren't a factor."

Keith's note: The title of this article is accurate. It is also misleading. 52% of people aged 18-34 said they'd go. And they are all tax paying, voting age adults. Just sayin'.

- Hey NASA: The Artemis Generation Is Global, earlier post
- For The Artemis Generation Living Off World Is Natural, earlier post
- NASA Culture, earlier posts

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) ... "

Amid tension with Russia, Biden administration wants to extend the life of the International Space Station, Washington Post

"Earlier this year, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency, told CNN that it was committed to the station. "This is a family, where a divorce within a station is not possible," he said."

Ukraine tensions: Putin tells Biden new sanctions could rupture ties, BBC

"Russia's Vladimir Putin has warned his US counterpart Joe Biden that imposing new sanctions over Ukraine could lead to a complete breakdown in relations. In a phone call late on Thursday, the Russian president said such sanctions would be a "colossal mistake". Mr Biden, meanwhile, told Mr Putin that the US and its allies would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine."

Keith's note: Am I the only one who thinks it was just a little strange that the White House waited until late in the day on New Year's Eve - probably the slowest news day in the entire year where no one is really paying attention - to announce this? Why bury it like this? They couldn't have announced it before Christmas when maybe a few more people were paying attention? Just a few weeks ago NASA announced three large contracts to explore commercial follow-ons to the ISS - in addition to another already in place. Continuity anyone?

You'd think that someone was thinking about how to knit this all together into a cohesive policy. Guess again. Space Team Biden seems to have no idea how to roll out its own good news these days via NASA or anywhere else. After all, they rented child actors when no actual human children could be found for a photo op with the VP. The National Space Council still exists. Hooray. What does it do? No one seems to know. Or care.

But on to the bigger picture. This whole 2030 thing sounds a little hollow given current events. Happy talk squirted out on a news graveyard day while people elsewhere are building tinderboxes that could make it all moot - during an unrelenting global pandemic. Up until now the ISS has managed to escape nearly all collateral damage from terrestrial politics - to its credit. Maybe the way that we seem to be able to work together in space with our almost-enemies can teach us something about how to get along better on Earth. Small wonder that many people think that the ISS program is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Oddly, despite Earthly brinksmanship politics, we can work with Russia up there. But due to the same ground-based politics we can't work with China with whom things are equally dysfunction and out of whack. Am I missing something?

With everything in perpetual and instantly-accelerated crazy mode these days, these throwaway buzz words by Nelson, Rogozin et al could be eclipsed in a moment by events spiraling out of control in Ukraine. Or Taiwan. Or both. Its almost as if the staffers who wrote this stuff do not read the actual news about the actual world. But there's no reason to not try and be optimistic at a time when optimism is in such short supply. Maybe space can do that. If NASA and this Administration truly do see the value in an expanded, inclusive, and global human presence in space - and that perhaps this operates on a higher plane than the politics of the day - then perhaps they could say so more prominently and more often - in context with reality.

My point? Not a new one. NASA has an astonishing brand presence with a global reach. Yet they barely understand the true nature of this untapped soft power resource at their disposal or how to use it - domestically or internationally. Moreover, NASA PAO recycles the same tired talking points about the value of the space station that I put on Powerpoint charts at NASA 30 years ago. NASA is perpetually out of touch with what the real world sees as important and think that pretty space pictures are the answer to public disinterest. Newsflash: the only people paying attention to Webb right now are a dozen or so space reporters. No pretty pictures.

Anyway, this latest rant of mine is all pointless since, when it comes to interacting with the external world, NASA only has transmitters and no receivers. That said, in my regular refrain, if NASA does not take its own programs seriously enough to pay attention then why should anyone else?

I can't wait to see how NASA responds to an orbital Starship flight while their SLS sits in the VAB waiting for broken parts to be replaced.

2021: The Year In Space



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