March 2022 Archives

George Nield, Astronaut

Budget summary for @NASA in FY 2023

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) inspires the Nation by sending astronauts and robotic missions to explore the solar system, advances the Nation's understanding of the Earth and space, and develops new technologies and approaches to improve aviation and space activities. The President's 2023 Budget for NASA invests in: human and robotic exploration of the Moon; new technologies to improve the Nation's space capabilities; and addressing the climate crisis through cutting-edge research satellites and green aviation research.

The Budget requests $26 billion in discretionary funding for NASA, a $2.7 billion or 11.6-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level."

FY 2023 NASA Budget Information, NASA

Annual State of NASA Address, Media Budget Briefing Set for March 28

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will give the 2022 State of NASA address at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 28, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website. ... Following the State of NASA, Associate Administrator Bob Cabana and Chief Financial Officer Margaret Vo Schaus will host a virtual media teleconference at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration's fiscal year 2023 funding request for the agency. Joining them for questions and answers are senior leaders from each of NASA's mission directorates."

Multiple Historic Resonances With The Moon Aboard ISS

Keith's update: Four small Apollo 11 Moon rocks that went to the summit of Mt. Everest - with an Astronaut - plus a piece of the summit of Everest - are now located in the ISS cupola 2 meters from where this picture was taken.

"... Like a mini version, my Cosmic Kiss mission patch floats here next to the Nebra Sky Disc (at least a copy of it in the Cupola of the International Space Station. In the background, a breathtaking view of our Earth The more my mission progresses, and the more incredible experiences I get to live up here, the more connected I feel to the message of my #CosmicKiss mission - the declaration of love for space. Inspired by the 3600 year old Sky Disc my Cosmic Kiss patch represents the special connection that the Space Station creates between the inhabitants of Earth and the cosmos, as well as the partnership we need to explore farther in in space.

... The disc has been attributed to a site in present-day Germany near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, and was originally dated by archaeologists to c. 1600 BCE, based on the provenance provided by the looters who found it.

... That evening, after dinner, Scott and I went outside to do some practice shots for how he might get the Moon and our Moon rocks in the same picture on the summit. At one point I was playing around and we got the small piece of lucite with the rocks withing the Pringle can lids to eclipse the rising Moon. Eclipsing the Moon with pieces of the Moon - at Everest Base Camp with an astronaut. That's yet another sentence that is a totally self-contained story in and of itself.

... As I looked at the Moon rocks - eclipsing the Moon there was something very familiar about the shapes. I had seen this before. Only a few days later did it strike me: I was thinking of the "Space Window" in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC that had a small Apollo 11 Moon rock surrounded by a large circular enclosure eerily echoing our Nugget Containment Device hacked from food container lids. I had seen it dozens of times over the years. Three years later I attended the funeral of Neil Armstrong at the National Cathedral. Looking up at the window and up to the altar I found myself taping my chest where the Moon rocks were kept on my trip to Everest. I was the only one amidst this illustrious crowd who had such a resonance. One of those moments."

NASA Provides Update to Astronaut Moon Lander Plans Under Artemis, NASA

"To bring a second entrant to market for the development of a lunar lander in parallel with SpaceX, NASA will issue a draft solicitation in the coming weeks. This upcoming activity will lay out requirements for a future development and demonstration lunar landing capability to take astronauts between orbit and the surface of the Moon. This effort is meant to maximize NASA's support for competition and provides redundancy in services to help ensure NASA's ability to transport astronauts to the lunar surface. This upcoming second contract award, known as the Sustaining Lunar Development contract, combined with the second option under SpaceX's original landing award, will pave the way to future recurring lunar transportation services for astronauts at the Moon."

Keith's update: Show me the money.

NASA Media Briefing On Artemis Strategy for Astronaut Moon Landers

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 23, to provide an update on the agency's goals to transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon under Artemis."

Keith's note: NASA PAO sent this out with 24 hours notice. You'd think that if this was really important and if NASA wanted the best possible exposure to the media that they'd give more advance notice - especially since all of the space media are already busy this week covering Satellite 2020 and/or Space Science Week at the National Academy. Maybe NASA PAO AA Marc Etkind is trying to distract people from the whole Ukraine/Russia/ISS thing with a contrived non-event. Or maybe this is about a possible second human lander proposal solicitation. If so then the obvious question will be "show me the money". BTW whatever happened to that big budget windfall Bill Nelson said NASA was going to get? Then the media will ask when the Artemis III landing will actually happen and no one from NASA will give a clear answer (with a year etc.) And Bill Nelson will slowly read some lengthy text filled with happy words about the big rocket and whatever rocks his boat these days after the sugar high he got from the SLS rollout photo-op.

Ukraine plans to join the EU -- will the prospects in the space sphere expand?, Olga Ozhogina, Freelance Space Reporter

On February 28, on the fourth day of Ukraine's fight against the Russian invader, Ukraine submitted its application for EU membership with a special expedited procedure. The application was accepted and has entered the process of consideration.

This does not mean immediate or rapid accession, but the process has been reduced 3-4 fold. Other countries have undergone this process over an 8-10 year period, but Ukraine will be able to join the EU much faster if all conditions are met.

When Ukraine can join the EU, this achievement will open up prospects for cooperation in all spheres of politics and business at the highest level. This holds tremendous potential for the development of the Ukrainian space industry.

As members of the EU, Ukrainians will have the chance to receive grant funding for space projects. European companies will be able to hire Ukrainian workers without bureaucratic obstacles and vice versa and conduct joint training.

Ukraine has had a rich legacy of space infrastructure and technology dating back to Soviet times, but in the last 10 years, more than 30 Ukrainian space startups have appeared. However, the average age of Ukraine's leading space industry luminaries is over 50 years old. Thus, the country is focused on educating new specialists in the space industry.

Roscosmos to wait for ISS partners' response until end of March - chief, TASS

"Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said he would wait until the end of March for the response from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency to his demand to lift sanctions against Russian enterprises. "We will wait until the end of March. The lack of response or a negative response would be a basis for our decision," he said, without specifying what kind of decision it would be. According to the official, the space corporation was not going to yield to the sanctions."

'That's just Dmitry': Nasa plays down threat to ISS amid Ukraine war, The Guardian

"The Nasa administrator, Bill Nelson, has played down hostile comments by the head of the Russian space agency, after Russia said it would stop supplying rocket engines to US companies. "That's just Dmitry Rogozin," Nelson told the Associated Press. "He spouts off every now and then. But at the end of the day, he's worked with us."The other people that work in the Russian civilian space program, they're professional. They don't miss a beat with us, American astronauts and American mission control."

Head of Russian Space Program Says ISS Cosmonauts "in a Fighting Mood", Futurism

"Dmitry Rogozin, the outspoken head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, expressed his excitement today for delivering the next crew of cosmonauts to the International Space Station. But his choice of words was peculiar, to say the least. "The State Commission at Baikonur approved the main and backup crews of the Soyuz MS-21 manned spacecraft," Rogozin tweeted in Russian. "The boys are in a fighting mood."


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

"Humanity now lives in space permanently. Our spacecraft have left the solar system. Our space telescopes look back to the beginning of time. We are spacefarers. Space technology has its roots in weapons of war. America's early accomplishments in space were achieved with direct use of Nazi technology and personnel. Russia followed a similar path. Today North Korea, Iran, and other nations use rocket designs with a clear lineage originating with Hitler's V-2. All technology is iterative. Smart technology persists and finds peaceful uses despite its war making origins. Hitler's V-2 nearly killed my father. Yet I helped design things that flew into space on rockets inspired by V-2 technology - often with my friends on board. The technology that tried to kill my father gave me a career."

Keith's note: I wrote this rather long story several years ago after my father died from Alzheimers. On this date, 18 March, 1945 a V-2 quite nearly killed my father. One of the things I wanted to get across is how the traumatic wartime experiences that someone goes through as a young person can haunt them into their 90s. While I never served, these horrors jumped a generation and affected someone (me) with nightmares - and I was not even alive at the time the rocket fell from space on my father. I grew up in the late 50s/early 60s with tales of life during World War II here and in Europe as part of my upbringing. We all did.

Now, as a senior citizen, I am living through events unfolding - again in Europe - events that could lead to World War III. Millions are going through the horrors that my father and his comrades went through. All of Ukraine will be carrying these horrid memories for the rest of this century and beyond. My father's nightmares, spawned from events nearly 80 years, have visited me again and now stare back at me from the TV every day. Weirdly, a Moon rocket - overtly echoing its predecessor half a century ago - also stared back at me from the TV today. History is echoing a little bit too much for me right now. How about you?

If you have not seen it, you should take the time to watch the video "A message to the Russian people" that Arnold Schwarzenegger about his father and World War II.

Artemis 1 SLS Rollout

NASA's Moon Rocket Keeps on Rolling to Launch Complex 39B

"NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, with the Orion capsule atop, slowly rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 17, 2022 on its journey to Launch Complex 39B."

Costly and years late, NASA's SLS moon rocket rolls to the launchpad for the first time, Washington Post

"Last week, NASA's inspector general, Paul Martin, told Congress that his office had calculated the cost for the first three flights of the SLS to be $4.1 billion each, a price tag he said was "unsustainable." In an era when SpaceX and other companies are building rockets that can be reused for multiple flights, Martin said, "relying on such an expensive, single-use rocket system will, in our judgment, inhibit if not derail NASA's ability to sustain its long-term human exploration goals to the moon and Mars."

Earlier posts on SLS

Eugene Parker

NASA Mourns Passing of Visionary Heliophysicist Eugene Parker, NASA

"Dr. Eugene N. Parker, visionary of heliophysics and namesake of NASA's Parker Solar Probe, has passed away. He was 94. As a young professor at the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s, Parker developed a mathematical theory that predicted the solar wind, the constant outflow of solar material from the Sun. Throughout his career, Parker revolutionized the field time and again, advancing ideas that addressed the fundamental questions about the workings of our Sun and stars throughout the universe."

Ike Rigell

A Tribute To Ike Rigell, Jamie Groh, NASA Alumni League Florida Chapter

Speak of Isom "Ike" Rigell to anyone familiar with the Apollo space program and the words "icon" and "legend" are routinely used. The former NASA Apollo program chief engineer and deputy launch director died on Thursday morning at the age of 99. Rigell defined his life with three guiding passions, according to his son David Rigell, "passion for his faith, passion for his commitment to family, and passion for his service to his country. Those three things very much defined how he lived his life and how he spent his time. Those were his priorities, unquestionably."

NASA's Webb Reaches Alignment Milestone, Optics Working Successfully

"On March 11, the Webb team completed the stage of alignment known as "fine phasing." At this key stage in the commissioning of Webb's Optical Telescope Element, every optical parameter that has been checked and tested is performing at, or above, expectations. The team also found no critical issues and no measurable contamination or blockages to Webb's optical path. The observatory is able to successfully gather light from distant objects and deliver it to its instruments without issue."

Keith's note: Of course NASA PAO will not bother to send the email to former astronauts about their public commentary to the news media - the same media who are quoting them - and trying to adequately cover the current situation regarding @roscosmos, NASA and the Ukraine war.

I've been to space with Russians. Threatening our partnership there is senseless., OpEd by Scott Kelly, Washington Post

"Forty-seven years ago, before most Americans were born, an Apollo spacecraft docked with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in Earth orbit. A hatch opened between them, and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Leonov and NASA astronaut Tom Stafford came together to shake hands. Their handshake was a historic moment that brought our two countries one step closer to the end of the Cold War. Now those hostilities are being reignited. The people of Ukraine are paying the price for Putin's aggression, and our peaceful cooperation in space may as well. I also fear for the Russian people and the effect that sanctions will have on their lives. I have many friends in Russia, some in the space program and others not, and they have different opinions on this war. There are those who believe that the war is the criminal act of one man; the others -- well, they have been brainwashed by a state-controlled media led by a master propagandist. The International Space Station is a great symbol of cooperation between formerly warring countries. But it is also a real place where people live, work and form unbreakable friendships."

NASA OIG: NASA's Insider Threat Program

"While NASA has a fully operational insider threat program for its classified systems, the vast majority of the Agencys information technology (IT) systems including many containing high-value assets or critical infrastructure are unclassified and are therefore not covered by its current insider threat program. Consequently, the Agency may be facing a higher-than-necessary risk to its unclassified systems and data. ... Further amplifying the complexities of insider threats are the cross-discipline challenges surrounding cybersecurity expertise. At NASA, responsibilities for unclassified systems are largely shared between the Office of Protective Services and the Office of the Chief Information Officer. In addition, Agency contracts are managed by the Office of Procurement while grants and cooperative agreements are managed by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer."

As War Divides Countries On The Ground, What's Happening In Space?, Newsy

"NASA so far has stayed out of the Twitter spats. "So they're really sort of sitting there wondering what's next, and nobody has an answer other than to just wait and see what is next," Keith Cowing, editor at NASAwatch.com, said."

Keith's note: The bulk of the interview was with Scott Kelly who clearly has vastly greater experience in this realm and he makes some very cogent points that I fully endorse. Clayton Sandell and I had a much longer chat as he prepared this story. At some point I'll type up some of my comments. In a nutshell I think the crew will get through this, that in the end they are a team - a crew - on a ship - and they always work and think that way first and foremost. I also said that I may be naive but I think that the ISS partnership will survive this cruel war back on Earth. This gives new importance to that phrase "Ad astra per aspera" Indeed, "to the stars through hardships".

Opinion: Our space partnership with Russia can't go on, Opinion, Homer Hickam, Washington Post

"The Russians, however, have not reacted in the same spirit. Dmitry Rogozin, the belligerent chief of the Russian federal space agency known as Roscosmos, has made clear that he fully supports the invasion and has even made threats toward his ISS partners, including invoking nuclear war. He has also indicated he is willing to abandon the ISS, in a recent tweet expressing the hope it would crash into the United States or Europe.
In nearly every arena, the Biden administration has imposed harsh sanctions on Russia. The space station should not be immune. It's time to end our well-intentioned partnership with Russia -- even if, as seems almost certain, it would mean the early closing and decommissioning of the space station."

Keith's 5:50 pm EST note: Just got this from NASA PAO - and no I did not ask them to comment since I knew they'd send me something that makes my brain hurt. And they did.

"Afternoon, Keith. I'm not sure whether you reached out to us for official comment, but below is a statement about the pronoun topic you posted about today, attributed to Steve Shih, NASA Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity:

"Through an effort to create a more inclusive workplace, NASA recently completed an IT project at Goddard Space Flight Center that allowed approximately 125 employees to test the option of including their gender pronouns in NASA's email display fields -- which currently includes each employee's name, center, and an organizational code. The learnings from this test will be used to inform the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

"NASA is fully committed to supporting every employee's right to be addressed by their preferred name and pronouns. All NASA employees currently have the option and flexibility to include their gender pronouns in their customized email signature blocks. This option remains unchanged and is supported by NASA leadership so that employees can share their gender identities and show allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community."

Keith's note: ICYMI: the text of Rep. Beyer's NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Act of 2022 is included at the very end of the just-released omnibus bill, in a separate section for odds and ends ("Division HH - Other Matters"). The relevant text begins on page 2732. The omnibus is on the House floor today and expected to be passed by the Senate and on the President's desk not later than next week.

"SEC. 3. EXTENSION OF AUTHORITY TO ENTER INTO LEASES OF NON-EXCESS PROPERTY OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION.

Section 20145(g) of title 51, United States Code, is amended by striking "December 31, 2021" and inserting "December 31, 2022".

Russia Travel Advisory, State Department

"Do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the Embassy's limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, limited flights into and out of Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law. U.S. citizens should depart Russia immediately."

NASA SLS manager John Honeycutt pushes back against audit, AL.com

"I will certainly say that the SLS rocket is not going to come at a cost of $4 billion a shot," Honeycutt told an SLS media briefing at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville."

Keith's note: OK, so John Honeycutt, the NASA SLS manager, is certainly in a position to know what the real cost of a single launch is, right? What manager would not know such a thing about their main product? And if he says that it is "not ... $4 billion" then he is certainly basing this on knowledge of the actual cost, right? Otherwise how would he know that the cost is "not ... $4 billion" unless he knew the real cost, right? If he knows the actual cost then why can't he tell us? Or ... does he (NASA) not know what the cost is and wants to deflect from that fact? Just trying to inject some logic into this. I'd ask PAO but they either ignore me or send me useless sentences that give me a headache.

- The Honorable Paul K. Martin, NASA Inspector General,

"Specifically, NASA's initial three Artemis missions face varying degrees of technical difficulties that will push launch schedules from months to years past their current goals. With all necessary elements for the Artemis I mission now being integrated and tested at Kennedy Space Center, we estimate that NASA is progressing toward the first launch of the integrated SLS/Orion space flight system by summer 2022. With Artemis II, NASA is facing additional schedule delays--until at least mid-2024--due to the second mission's reuse of Orion components from Artemis I. Finally, given the time needed to develop and fully test the HLS and NASA's next-generation spacesuits needed for lunar exploration, the date for a crewed lunar landing likely will slip to 2026 at the earliest.

Moreover, our detailed examination of Artemis program contracts found its costs unsustainable. Given our estimate of a $4.1 billion per-launch cost of the SLS/Orion system for at least the first four Artemis missions, NASA must accelerate its efforts to identify ways to make its Artemis-related programs more affordable. Otherwise, relying on such an expensive single-use, heavy-lift rocket system will, in our judgment, inhibit if not derail NASA's ability to sustain its long-term human exploration goals of the Moon and Mars. In addition, the Agency has seen significant cost growth in the Mobile Launchers, spacesuits, and to a lesser degree the Gateway. However, since NASA is following its commercial crew model in the HLS procurement, cost increases may be controlled in part due to the fixed-price, milestone-based contracts where SpaceX, the contractor, shares the costs of development."

- Chairwoman Johnson
- Chairman Beyer
- Ranking Member Brian Babin
- Ranking Member Frank Lucas

- Mr. James Free, Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, NASA
- Mr. William Russell, Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions,GAO
- Dr. Patricia Sanders, Chair, Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
- Mr. Daniel Dumbacher, Executive Director, AIAA


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