May 2022 Archives

Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Competed Space Mission Leadership at NASA Will Require Extensive Efforts Along Entire Career Pathways, Says New Report, National Academy of Sciences

"Inadequate data gathering and reporting are critical barriers to NASA's understanding of the efficacy of its own DEIA efforts to date, and of the proposal leadership pool's demographics, according to the report. These are necessary steps for measuring progress, and for identifying and eliminating barriers in the mission proposal process. The report recommends developing a systematic approach to routinely monitor and track the demographics of those participating in NASA-funded research, both for competed missions and research and analysis grants, with the public release of the resulting data. Further, SMD should provide funding for professional organizations to regularly conduct workforce surveys across the directorate's research fields to inform NASA on the demographics of the workforce and the barriers and opportunities for advancement along career pathways. The report also recommends that NASA empanel a standing NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committee specifically focused on DEIA issues. That committee should have a broad charter and world-class membership to advise top NASA leadership, and its chair should serve on the NAC."

Keith's note: This report focuses on the NASA Science Mission Directorate but is perfectly applicable to NASA as a whole. NASA gets reports like this on a regular basis. They pay lip service, say thank you, and then ignore whatever the report says. NASA is chronically lacking with regard to the basic data that you'd need to understand what NASA's audiences are, what services they need, who within those audiences actually pays attention to NASA education and outreach, and what the results of these interactions actually accomplish (and where they fail to do so).

NASA's education and outreach efforts are disjointed and do not talk to one another. They are duplicative, and are often tailored around the pet notions of the NASA individuals managing the programs. And no one at NASA in a position to plan strategy (there is no strategy)for education and outreach at NASA is actually professionally qualified to create and implement a strategy. People in jobs where these roles are located often moved there from unrelated jobs that they were originally hired to do. The NASA Advisory Council has a education and outreach working group that has short meetings and accomplishes nothing of value.

With regard to work force issues and understanding the actual audiences that need to be attended to so as to get the best possible research proposals, NASA is also sadly lacking. With regard ot the results of NASA research - aside from pretty pictures, and staged media events - NASA fools itself with large numbers of Twitter followers and news stories. Does NASA actually ask actual citizens what they think - and what they know - and what they want from NASA? No. NASA loves to transmit but they have a chronic problem when it comes to actually listening.

Did I miss anything?

Keith's update: AH, but then there's this - from the only AA at NASA who actually "gets it".

NASA Seeks Input on Moon to Mars Objectives, Comments Due May 31, NASA

"As NASA moves forward with plans to send astronauts to the Moon under Artemis missions to prepare for human exploration of Mars, the agency is calling on U.S. industry, academia, international communities, and other stakeholders to provide input on its deep space exploration objectives. NASA released a draft set of high-level objectives Tuesday, May 17, identifying 50 points falling under four overarching categories of exploration, including transportation and habitation; Moon and Mars infrastructure; operations; and science. Comments are due to the agency by close of business on Tuesday, May 31."

Keith's note: These to-do 50 items that NASA lists are interesting questions - covering big topics which would require time and thought in terms of the input that people could provide. So what does NASA do? they drop this on the outside world with no advanced notice with only 2 weeks to respond - with a prominent national holiday on the day before comments are due. If NASA was really serious about getting quality input they'd give people more time to think, analyse, and respond.

As such, the real question is whether NASA actually needs help and will consider accepting help from outside the usual suspects within its bubble - or - if they are just going through the motions of asking for input - so as to be seen as being interested - when in fact they are probably not interested in outside input i.e. faux transparency.

Boots Of Exploration

Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA

"The Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation regulates the Unites States' (U.S.) commercial space transportation industry, and ensures compliance with international obligations of the U.S. and protects the public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S.; encourages, facilitates and promotes commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector; recommends appropriate changes in Federal statutes, treaties, regulations, policies, plans and procedures; and facilitates the strengthening and expansion of the U.S. space transportation infrastructure. The Associate Administrator executes the role of the position via a highly technical workforce of approximately 120 employees to include three Executives and the administration of an annual operational and research budget of approximately $40M."

Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing - Space Situational Awareness: Guiding the Transition to a Civil Capability (with witness statements)

- Chairwoman Johnson Opening Statement

"As the amount of space debris and number of satellites orbiting the Earth have exponentially increased in recent years, SSA is critically important to maintaining space safety and ensuring that we continue to reap benefits on Earth from monitoring, operating, and living in space."

- Babin Opening Statement

"The debris created by a recent Russian anti-satellite test highlights why SSA remains an important issue. As I said at our Subcommittee's hearing in 2020, near-misses in space attract media attention and calls for draconian regulations, but overreacting could be just as detrimental to our nation's space enterprise. There are, however, some important issues I think we can all still agree on."

- Chairman Beyer Opening Statement

"Mega constellations of thousands of satellites are creating orbital congestion, and orbital debris from past missions--and reckless anti-satellite tests--are compounding the risks of operating in space. The sustainability of the space environment is in peril if we don't act."

Keith's note: According to an official press release issued on 9 May "NASA and Boeing will hold a media teleconference at about 6 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11". So when you go to the NASA media page for the beginning of the event around 6:00 pm EDT the official website says "5:30 p.m. - Media briefing for NASA's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2)". The media event ended at 6:11 pm EDT. Neat trick to get media and/or the public who wanted to listen in to miss the event. From what I can tell NASA seems to have managed to confuse the space press corps.

Lift And Mate Of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner For OFT-2

NASA, Boeing to Discuss Readiness of Uncrewed Flight Test

"NASA and Boeing will hold a media teleconference at about 6 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11, following the Flight Readiness Review for the agency's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), the second uncrewed flight test of the company's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the agency's Commercial Crew Program. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency's website."

Boeing clashes with key supplier ahead of Starliner spacecraft launch, Reuters via CNN

"The disagreement, which has not been reported before, comes at time when Boeing already is scrambling to emerge from successive crises that have hobbled its jetliner business and drained cash. The Aerojet dispute is the latest illustration of Boeing's struggles with Starliner, a program costing the company $595 million in charges since 2019. Facing fixed-price NASA contracts that leave Boeing with little wiggle room financially, the company has pressed forward with the Starliner test. Boeing in a statement provided by a spokesperson to Reuters acknowledged for the first time that it ultimately intends to redesign Starliner's valve system to prevent a repeat of the issue that forced last year's test-flight postponement. The Boeing statement said that "we are working on short- and long-term design changes to the valves."

"What is Artemis?"

Keith's update: Someone saw this tweet.

No One on Jeopardy! Knew About NASA's New Moon Missions, Gizmodo

"I grew up in the 1960s during the Apollo era... but, given the constant reminders I got in school and in the news about going to the Moon, I knew exactly what the brother of Artemis was up to," Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee and editor of the site NASA Watch, told me in an email. "So did everyone else."

Hero of Russia Alexander Skvortsov explained why he left the cosmonaut corps, MKRU

Google translate: (Alexander Misurkin)"Despite the fact that for health reasons I am still suitable for flying, it is already difficult for me to fly for such a period. It would have been nothing if the program included interesting work on the Russian segment, but there most of the time I would have to work for the Americans, that is, to help them carry out their experiments. Sorry, but there is no proper motivation for this."

Statement by NASA Administrator Nelson - Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations United States Senate, NASA

"Later this year, NASA will launch the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb), the largest and most complex space science observatory ever built. Webb is an infrared telescope designed to observe the farthest objects, broadening and transforming our understanding of the early universe. It will see the light from the first galaxies that formed in the early universe after the Big Bang ...."

Keith's 3 May note: This is what his prepared testimony says. Really? I thought Webb was actually in outer space and just sent back its first calibration images. Let's see how fast this document is replaced. If it is replaced that is. Yes, its a nit but the 9th floor at NASA is rather sloppy these days. They hype the SLS rollout and then try and deny media access to the tests on the pad which were the reason why the rollout happened in the first place; they take more than 2 weeks to post a simple Youtube video of the VP talking to an astronaut on his cellphone - on Earth; and you cannot get a straight answer about what a SLS launch will cost or when it will launch. Oh yes it is dated "June 15, 2021" (last year) and it is linked to from this Senate page on the hearing itself. Doesn't anyone in NASA Public Affairs and/or Legislative Affairs read through this stuff before it goes out? SMD might know where their telescopes are. Just sayin' Or did the committee staff post something old - I doubt that since the NSF testimony and webcast links and every thing else are correct and current.

Keith's 4 May update: After a tweet about this item this morning I promptly got a note from someone@senate.gov: "I think when I tried to upload it to our website it just pulled the previous year's testimony instead. It has now been corrected and I regret any confusion." Here is the revised prepared testimony.. Oddly the incorrect statement sat there for the entire nation to see for 24 hours and NASA did not notice until (apparently) I pointed out. My earlier comments still stand - NASA HQ is far too often asleep at the wheel. To those of you who did not read the earlier post this is what was originally posted - and NASA did not notice.

- NASA Administrator Statement FY 2023 BudgetSenate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations (Revised)

- Hearing Webcast

Whatever, Dmitry

The Western space community should put Dmitry Rogozin on "ignore", Ars Technica

"It happened again this weekend. Both Bloomberg and Axios reported that Russia is quitting the International Space Station due to sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia. Each of these stories garnered considerable attention. And each of these stories was also wrong. This has become a predictable pattern in recent weeks: Dmitry Rogozin, the voluble leader of Russia's space corporation, will give an interview to a Russian space publication, and then Western news outlets will pick up whatever Rogozin says and leap to conclusions that are simply incorrect."


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