Recently in Artemis Category

NASA CAPSTONE Mission Experiences Comms Issue

NASA is reporting that communications issue has arisen between the spacecraft and the Deep Space Network.

"In a statement NASA said "Following successful deployment and start of spacecraft commissioning on July 4, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network."

NASA Administrator Announces Next NAC Meeting, New Members, NASA

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Wednesday the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) will convene its next meeting on August 9-10. Nelson also appointed new members to the NAC, who will provide leadership counsel and advice on agency programs and priorities."

Keith's note: Blah Blah Blah. One of the appointees is a former, elderly Senate sidekick of Nelson's. The others are certainly more than qualified - BUT - with all this incessant chatter from NASA about diversity and the Artemis Generation - why is it that these NASA advisory committees always end up with the usual suspects? Why are there no actual members of the Artemis Generation - or people who will be directly supervising the Artemis Generation - on these committees? Oh, and just wait until the moribund National Space Council Users Advisory Group (still in hibernation) eventually announces its new membership which will almost certainly be similarly inclined towards the same people talking to one another in the same old echo chamber.

Keith's note: With the exception of an unresolved Hydrogen leak NASA told computers to ignore, it seems that the countdown to T-29 sec otherwise went as planned. The original plan was to bring it down to T-9.3 sec but was halted when a flag was encountered - so the test was not 100% completed. But NASA will try and spin it as if it was.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of The Mobile Launcher 2 Contract

"The ML-2's substantial cost increases and schedule delays can be attributed primarily to Bechtel's poor performance on the contract, with more than 70 percent ($421.1 million) of the contract's cost increases and over 1.5 years of delays related to its performance. For example, Bechtel underestimated the ML-2 project's scope and complexity, experienced ML-2 weight management challenges, and experienced staffing turnover and retention issues. Additionally, Bechtel's lack of a certified EVMS since inception of the ML-2 contract--a contractually required tool for measuring and assessing project performance--has limited NASA's insight into the project's cost and schedule issues.

Bechtel's performance notwithstanding, NASA's management practices contributed to the project's cost increases and schedule delays. NASA awarded the ML-2 contract while the Exploration Upper Stage--the primary reason NASA needed a second mobile launcher--lacked final requirements, impacting the ML-2 design. With respect to contract management, while NASA withheld award fees for a 6-month performance period in spring 2021 due to Bechtel's poor performance, the Agency did not continue this practice despite the contractor's continued poor performance in the subsequent award period. Therefore, we question nearly $3 million in award fees NASA awarded to Bechtel for this period."

Keith's note: So ... NASA awarded this contract, did not give Bechtel all the information it actually needed tp do the work, then let work proceed, dinged Bechtel on an award fee payment, but otherwise just let things go ahead without any attempt to halt work, re-bid, etc. NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana was Center Director at KSC from 2008 until 2021 throughout much of this contract. NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL Ret.) fought for this work at KSC while a U.S. Senator. Nelson brought Cabana up to DC where he oversaw much of the agency including work being done on Artemis. This contract was awarded in 2019 when Cabana was running KSC and Kathy Lueders was running HEOMD. While Bechtel is certainly to blame for much of this mess - so is NASA - and the mismanagement of this contract starts at the very top of the agency inside the glass doors on the 9th floor.

Keith's note: Alas, NASA PAO only told hand-picked media about this NASA-CNES event - because that is how NASA rolls these days. Let's see if any video surfaces on NASA TV. And of course we know that NASA OIIR's website won't mention it since they just don't care.

Oh yes, look at the graphic used in this official NASA Tweet. Notice how they spell "New Zealand" ... Update: they deleted the tweet (after we took note) and figured out how to spell New Zealand. This is the earlier version of their graphic.

NASA Partners with Industry for New Spacewalking, Moonwalking Services

"NASA has selected Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to advance spacewalking capabilities in low-Earth orbit and at the Moon, by buying services that provide astronauts with next generation spacesuit and spacewalk systems to work outside the International Space Station, explore the lunar surface on Artemis missions, and prepare for human missions to Mars."

Spacesuits aboard station declared a "no-go" pending analysis of recent helmet water leak, CBS

"The aging shuttle-era spacesuits aboard the International Space Station have been declared "no-go" for operational, normally planned spacewalks, pending analysis to determine what led to excess water getting into an astronaut's helmet during a March excursion, officials confirmed Tuesday."

Keith's note: The NASA press release says total contract value is $3.5B if all of the contract options are eventually exercised but there are no details on how NASA funding is accomplished or the value of these two individual contracts. Oh yes - there is no mention of how these suits will help NASA deal with current suit issues on ISS right now. The earliest that these suits might be tested is apparently in the 2025 timeframe according to Axiom and Collins - maybe. As to whether they will be ready for an actual lunar mission i.e. Artemis 3 - that's anyone's guess since no one knows exactly when that flight will happen.

NASA declined to answer the "when" question with regard to spacesuit testing. Both companies suggest the 2025 time frame but provided no other detail. NASA would only say "mid-2020s" for when these spacesuits will be in use. When asked about water in helmets of current ISS EVA suits the NASA rep only says that they are studying it.

When asked what the value of each contract the NASA person said that it is going to be published in the source selection documents in late June. So .. one has to assume that NASA still does not know - otherwise they'd tell us, right?

Spacesuit companies were asked how much they've invested already. Axiom Space would not answer other than to say that they spent what they spent and "you can go figure it out". The Collins Aerospace guy had no number to offer either. Again, so much for transparency in this government/industry partnership

Oh and despite NASA awarding contracts worth up to $3.5 billion for new spacesuits for the ISS and the Moon - no one actually has pictures to share of the spacesuits that $3.5 billion from NASA will buy.

One media question asked why NASA is going to spend more money on spacesuits than a Human Lander System since it would seem that a lander is more complicated than a spacesuit. Answer - a fast talking NASA guy: moon ships are moon ships and spacesuits are spacesuits.

Meanwhile no one at NASA has any idea when an actual Moon landing will happen.

Update: NASA Seeks Comments on Moon to Mars Objectives by June 3, NASA

"NASA has extended the comment period on its Moon to Mars Objectives to 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 3. Comments were previously set to close on Tuesday, May 31. While the agency is working on a tight deadline to finalize the objectives this fall, numerous respondents requested additional time to provide higher quality feedback. The agency still intends to invite select participants to its workshops this summer to include the first event in June as originally planned."

Keith's 23 May update: A few more days may help. But still, you'd think that the agency was not interested in rushed ideas - but rather - ideas that the submitters actually had the time to think through and present in the most useful fashion for NASA. Oh well. Its only rocket science, right?

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 17 May 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.

"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."

NASA to Discuss Status of Artemis I Moon Mission

"Due to upgrades required at an off-site supplier of gaseous nitrogen used for the test, NASA will take advantage of the opportunity to roll SLS and Orion back to the Vehicle Assembly Building to replace a faulty upper stage check valve and a small leak on the tail service mast umbilical. During that time, the agency also will review schedules and options to demonstrate propellant loading operations ahead of launch."

Artemis I WDR Update: Third Test Attempt Concluded, NASA

"Teams concluded today's wet dress rehearsal test at approximately 5:10 p.m. EDT after observing a liquid hydrogen (LH2) leak on the tail service mast umbilical, which is located at the base of the mobile launcher and connects to the rocket's core stage. The leak was discovered during liquid hydrogen loading operations and prevented the team from completing the test. Before ending the test, teams also met test objectives for the interim cryogenic propulsion stage by chilling down the lines used to load propellant into the upper stage. They did not flow any propellant to the stage because of an issue with a helium check valve identified several days ago."

NASA to Discuss Initial Findings from Artemis Moon Mission Modified Test, NASA

"NASA will hold a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 15, to discuss the wet dress rehearsal test of the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft at Launch Complex 39B at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of the uncrewed Artemis I lunar mission."

- Summary Of Today's SLS Media Briefing, earlier post
- Inspector General Flunks NASA Management On Artemis/SLS/Orion, earlier post
- NASA Is Moving The Goal Posts (Yet Again) On SLS, earlier post
- NASA Stops SLS Test Before It Happens (Again), earlier post
- Earlier SLS posts

NASA's Cost Estimating and Reporting Practices for Multi-Mission Programs

"Congress is not receiving the federally mandated cost and schedule information it needs to make fully informed funding decisions for NASAs multi-mission programs. Specifically, for the programs supporting Artemis, the Agencys return-to- the-Moon and ultimately to Mars effort, NASA is circumventing required cost and schedule controls by categorizing certain production costs as operations costs when, in our opinion, they should be categorized as development costs. When the Constellation Program was cancelled in 2010, Congress directed NASA to continue development of several major components, including the rocket, crew capsule, and ground launch infrastructure. Without clearly defined missions for these major items, NASA only made cost and schedule commitments to Congress to demonstrate the initial capability of each system. The three separately-managed programs the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion Multi- Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) will provide the primary components for Artemis missions, the first of which is scheduled to launch no earlier than May 2022. Even though NASA has multiple Artemis missions planned, it has not adjusted the three programs life-cycle cost estimates or commitments to account for future missions. The result is incomplete cost estimates and commitments for these programs and missions.

We raised questions with the Agencys recent update to NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR) 7120.5F, NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements, which establishes the requirements, life-cycle processes, and procedures by which NASA formulates and implements space flight programs and projects. Rather than resolving the major shortcomings with the Agencys cost estimating and reporting practices, the recent policy amendments formalized known deficiencies as acceptable management practices. NASA had previously stated that it intended to establish new policies and procedures that would provide additional transparency for major programs with multiple deliverables and unspecified end points. Instead, it codified its poor cost estimating and reporting practices in a new policy that fails to comply with Title 51 of the United States Code, which requires the Agency to annually provide an estimate of the life- cycle cost for major programs, with a detailed breakout of the development cost and program reserves as well as an estimate of the annual costs until development is completed. The policy also weakens NASAs ability to account for some risks in programs consisting of multiple projects, a situation that may affect cost and schedule if risks are unidentified in the estimates. Furthermore, the revised policy will not adequately address several open NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations regarding incomplete and missing cost estimates and the corresponding baseline commitments for programs supporting Artemis missions.

Congress, NASA OIG, and GAO have identified longstanding problems with the completeness and credibility of NASA's life-cycle cost estimates for major acquisitions. Ultimately, NASA is not providing full visibility into its investments as it begins a multi-decade initiative to transport humans to Mars at a cost that could easily reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Because the programs that support these exploration missions are still in their early development stages, it is critical that NASA establish credible and complete cost and schedule estimates."

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.

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

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

The Power Of Ten: Meet The 10 Winners Of NASA's 10th Annual Space Apps Challenge

"The level of global participation and team dynamics underscored NASA's efforts to ensure that the Space Apps Challenge community reflected the level of diversity that exists globally. The challenges spanned a wide range of topics, talents, and interests creating an environment where anyone and everyone could participate and add value. Of the participating 4,534 teams, 37 teams were selected as finalists, 20 teams received honorable mention status, and 10 teams were announced as the global winners."

Keith's note: Cool stuff. NASA's global reach is unparalleled. Space Apps reaches people that might not ever have a chance to interact with space technology - thus leaving a positive impression of NASA - and of America. This is soft power projection at its finest. You'd think that NASA would be working to do this everywhere that it can. Guess again.

Some of these tweets about the Artemis Accords from the State Department - @SciDiplomacyUSA and @usunvie - have been up for over 7 hours. Others have been up for several days. You'd think that NASA OIIR or someone at NASA PAO - someone paying attention to broader White House policy objectives - would pay attention to these free chances to advance NASA's soft power projection. A simple retweet by @NASA would reach over 52 million followers. Globally. Guess again.

NASA is scattered when it comes to using its best assets for global reach. One moment they excel. The next moment they flop - miserably.

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.

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.

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."

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

House passes infrastructure bill with $1,115 Billion For NASA, Space Policy Online

"The House finally passed the second bill to address President Biden's infrastructure agenda. This "human infrastructure" bill has $1.115 billion for NASA, far less than what NASA Administrator Bill Nelson once hoped for, but would be a significant boost for the agency on top of its regular appropriations nonetheless. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration."

Bill Nelson Says He's Discovered A New Pile Of Money For NASA, earlier post

"Nelson decided that the way for NASA to get out of the fiscal mess it is in is to do a Hail Mary pass and dive into the new TBD Jobs Bill that the Administration is formulating and grab some dollars. He said "You can put $5.4 Billion into the jobs bill for the HLS that would be at the end of the day producing jobs. Another $200 million could go into that bill for spacesuits." He went on to say "We can also put $585 million on nuclear thermal propulsion."

Nelson then turned to another pot of forthcoming money - the multi-trillion dollar Infrastructure bill and said "Part of the jobs bill is infrastructure - there's another $5.4 Billion. Look at NASA facilities in your state (congressman) - there is aging infrastructure." Do the math. All told, it looks like he wants to raid the cookie jar for something like $10 - 11 billion. One would assume that OMB is on board with this plan."

- NASA CFO Commentary On FY 2022 Budget Negotiations, earlier post
- Has Anyone Seen Bill Nelson's NASA Budget Windfall?, earlier post

Newly Released Court Documents Obliterate Blue Origin's Lawsuit Against NASA, Futurism

The US Court of Federal Claims has released a 47 page document detailing its decision to drop Blue Origin's legal challenge against NASA -- and it's a scathing rebuttal, full of damning details. In the documents, shared by New York Times space reporter Joey Roulette on Twitter today, the court expanded on its decision. "The Court finds that Blue Origin does not have standing because it did not have a substantial chance of award but for the alleged evaluation errors," it reads. The court also found that Blue Origin's proposal "was priced well above NASA's available funding and was itself noncompliant."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of The Artemis Program

"With Artemis I mission elements now being integrated and tested at Kennedy Space Center, we estimate NASA will be ready to launch by summer 2022 rather than November 2021 as planned. Although Artemis II is scheduled to launch in late 2023, we project that it will be delayed until at least mid-2024 due to the mission's reuse of Orion components from Artemis I. While the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division--which includes HLS, Gateway, and next-generation spacesuits--is working on an integrated master schedule (IMS) for Artemis III that incorporates Exploration Systems Development (ESD) Division programs--SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems--the draft version does not include information on programs critical to Artemis that are outside of AES and ESD. Given the time needed to develop and fully test the HLS and new spacesuits, we project NASA will exceed its current timetable for landing humans on the Moon in late 2024 by several years.

In addition, NASA lacks a comprehensive and accurate cost estimate that accounts for all Artemis program costs. For FYs 2021 through 2025, the Agency uses a rough estimate for the first three missions that excludes $25 billion for key activities related to planned missions beyond Artemis III. When aggregating all relevant costs across mission directorates, NASA is projected to spend $93 billion on the Artemis effort up to FY 2025., We also project the current production and operations cost of a single SLS/Orion system at $4.1 billion per launch for Artemis I through IV, although the Agency's ongoing initiatives aimed at increasing affordability seek to reduce that cost. Multiple factors contribute to the high cost of ESD programs, including the use of sole-source, cost-plus contracts; the inability to definitize key contract terms in a timely manner; and the fact that except for the Orion capsule, its subsystems, and the supporting launch facilities, all components are expendable and "single use" unlike emerging commercial space flight systems. Without capturing, accurately reporting, and reducing the cost of future SLS/Orion missions, the Agency will face significant challenges to sustaining its Artemis program in its current configuration."

Keith's note: "$4.1 billion/launch" - "Artemis III several years after late 2024". Money cannot solve this. This is going to come up at NSpC meeting on 1 December 2021 whether or not it is on the agenda - and if not mentioned in the meeting - then it certainly will be mentioned in the media. Now would be a good time for Space Team Biden to really consider how to "Build Back Better" and consider a pivot wherein you open up the entire Artemis architecture up to private sector solutions - and do so from a blank sheet of paper. These companies have all been thinking about how to do this for years. The standard reflex government action of setting up a "blue ribbon panel" to find out what went wrong will simply delay all of this and result in the same answer that we already have. If America wants to put Americans back on the Moon then someone needs to start to take this issue seriously. It will not solve itself.

Keith's note: There was a media briefing today. NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson gave an Artemis update and guess what: everything is delayed and it will cost billions more than it was going to cost yesterday. Surprise.

Mostly Nelson blamed lack of NASA progress on Artemis on unrealistic schedules set by the Trump Administration (2024 etc.); the Blue Origin lawsuits; Congressional issues; and of course COVID. And, for good measure he threw in a Chinese threat he has been creating out of thin air saying that China may be landing humans on the Moon sooner than expected - without a single reference to substantiate his claim.

At no point did Nelson or anyone else from NASA accept any blame for things being years late and billions over budget either by NASA or its contractors. Instead there was a lot of happy talk from people reading words that someone else wrote in a monotone, disinterested tone of voice - not exactly the best way to inspire confidence among NASA employees and all of those stakeholder types that they "get it" at NASA. Nelson did say "we have to do better" but he never really defined who "we" is - and no one speaking on behalf of NASA today ever mentioned anything that was "better".

The obvious solution is to distract people from the obvious and split HEOMD into two new directorates since that will make everyone more efficient and happier. Next, NASA will somehow consolidate all SLS activities into a new single contract that sounds a lot like United Space Alliance from the Shuttle era. And of course everything is delayed. Artemis I will be launched no earlier than February 2022. Artemis II - the crewed lunar fly around mission - is now no earlier than May 2024. And there will be no flags and footprints on the Moon with Artemis III until some time in 2025. Oh and Nelson says that NASA still needs an additional $5.7 billion over the next six years to meet the 2025 date. If that additional money is not found then 2025 becomes unlikely and we're talking about 2026 - or beyond.

NASA wants to cut the cost of flying SLS to 50% of what it is now. So, you ask, how NASA is going to lower the SLS cost to 50% of whatever it is now - if we do not know what it costs - now? Pam Melroy was asked what the current cost is. She avoided answering that but said that NASA wanted to get the SLS per flight cost down to a $1 - $1.5 billion. If you apply a little logic that means that a SLS flight cost somewhere around $2 to $3 billion - but of course that is according to NASA's math using funny money.

Even if that SLS cost reduction aspirational goal is met, everything else associated with Artemis will still cost more. Because it always costs more. The new projected cost baseline for SLS/Orion - computed from from FY 2012 to the first crewed flight - will be dialed up from $6.7 billion to $9.3 billion. That is up by almost $2.6 billion from the earlier baseline. And then Nelson said that Congress wants a competition for human landers for the 10 or so landings in the notional Artemis storyline. And that is going to cost a lot of money too. Of course the promised windfall that Nelson thought he had discovered in the whole Infrastructure cookie jar never materialized for Artemis.

When asked about other ways to do this Jim Free, the new AA for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD), said that using a direct landing by Starship would not work since the crew has to be launched on a SLS/Orion. OK. So launch the Artemis III crew on a Falcon-9/Dragon - and save some money while you are at it. Nelson added that there is "only one rocket that can do this - SLS/Orion". But he added that if anyone happened to know about another rocket to please give him a call.

Speaking of other rockets - the SpaceX Starship test flight will likely happen before SLS ever flies and it will be testing a precursor of the Artemis III human lander. But NASA wants you to keep your eyes on SLS - not on that shiny new Starship thing. That said Nelson and his 9th floor posse will be going down to SpaceX in Texas to see the other rocket as soon as they can i.e. next year. Why hurry?

As for the whole Artemis program itself Nelson says that it is being done so that we can learn how to live on Mars and that he expects NASA to send crews there by the end of the 2030s. Charlie Bolden used to say that we'd do this by the early- to mid-2023s. At the rate NASA is dragging its feet it will be the late 2040s/early 2050s.

Just sayin'.

P.S. If you thought today's Artemis news was fun just wait until tomorrow when the NASA IG office releases a report on NASA SLS.

NASA Statement on Artemis Lunar Lander Court Decision

"NASA was notified Thursday that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied Blue Origin's bid protest, upholding NASA's selection of SpaceX to develop and demonstrate a modern human lunar lander. NASA will resume work with SpaceX under the Option A contract as soon as possible."

NASA Releases Interactive Graphic Novel "First Woman"

"We crafted this graphic novel and digital ecosystem to share NASA's work in a different and exciting way," said Derek Wang, director of communications for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "We set out to make the content both engaging and accessible. From space fans of all ages to hardworking educators looking for new ways to get students excited about STEM, we hope that there is something for everyone to enjoy."

Keith's 25 September note: This graphic novel is nicely done. NASA put a press release out about it on a Saturday - usually a dead day for news media - but it was National Comic Book Day - so it got some extra visibility. @NASA with its 40 million-plus Twitter followers even got in on the promotion. NASA.gov features it prominently. This is a STEM education-focused product from the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA HQ - not the NASA STEM Engagement Office. As such (predictably) the NASA STEM Engagement Office website makes no mention of it.

Keith's 27 September note: It took them 2 days but they updated the NASA STEM website. Let's see if they conduct any meaningful promotion for this graphic novel - or just say something - once.

NASA Leadership Positions Agency for Future, 21 September 2021

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Tuesday the agency is creating two new mission directorates that will best position the agency for the next 20 years. The move separates the agency's current Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate into the new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate. NASA is making the changes because of increasing space operations in low-Earth orbit and development programs well underway for deep space exploration, including Artemis missions."

NASA Creates Human Exploration And Operations Directorate, 12 August 2011

"NASA has announced the creation of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. The new organization, which combines the Space Operations and Exploration Systems mission directorates, will focus on International Space Station operations and human exploration beyond low Earth orbit."

NASA Announces New Headquarters Management Alignment, 15 January 2004

"Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Craig E. Steidle is the new Associate Administrator, Office of Exploration Systems. Since retiring from the Navy in March, 2000, he has been an independent aerospace consultant."

Keith's note: Back to the Future: during Vision For Space Exploration in 2003/2004 NASA split human exploration into 2 directorates. Then they changed it back in 2001. Now they are changing it again. NASA wants you to think that this is "progress" when in fact it is simply changing their phone book - again.

Draft House Infrastructure Bill Funds NASA and NOAA Space Programs But Not HLS, Space Policy Online

"NASA will get an extra $4.4 billion if Congress agrees with draft legislation proposed by the House committee that oversees the agency. While generous, it is far short of what NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is seeking and does not include any money for a second lunar lander for the Artemis program. The committee is also proposing over $4 billion for NOAA, including additional money for the space weather satellite program. Nelson is hoping Congress will add $15.7 billion to NASA's coffers on top of the agency's regular appropriations through President Biden's effort to secure $4.5 trillion for the nation's infrastructure."

Bill Nelson Says He's Discovered A New Pile Of Money For NASA, earlier post May 2021

"Nelson decided that the way for NASA to get out of the fiscal mess it is in is to do a Hail Mary pass and dive into the new TBD Jobs Bill that the Administration is formulating and grab some dollars. He said "You can put $5.4 Billion into the jobs bill for the HLS that would be at the end of the day producing jobs. Another $200 million could go into that bill for spacesuits." He went on to say "We can also put $585 million on nuclear thermal propulsion." Nelson then turned to another pot of forthcoming money - the multi-trillion dollar Infrastructure bill and said "Part of the jobs bill is infrastructure - there's another $5.4 Billion. Look at NASA facilities in your state (congressman) - there is aging infrastructure." Do the math. All told, it looks like he wants to raid the cookie jar for something like $10 - 11 billion. One would assume that OMB is on board with this plan."

Keith's note: I thought Senator Administrator Bill Nelson had this all figured out. Seriously, he would not have freelanced on his plan to get a NASA windfall without OMB approval, right? Meanwhile SLS is not going to launch until the middle of next year; there's only money for one HLS contract (despite all of the lawsuit activity); and the money needed just to keep the status quo in place is simply not there. Does Bill Nelson have a Plan B? We'd all like to see it. Stay tuned.

- Earlier SLS postings

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 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: 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."

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

GAO Statement on Blue Origin-Dynetics Decision - Protests Denied

"On Friday, July 30, 2021, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied protests filed by Blue Origin Federation, LLC, of South Kent, Washington, and Dynetics, Inc.-A Leidos Company, of Huntsville, Alabama. The protesters challenged their non-selection for awards and the award of optional contract line item numbers to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, under Option A to Appendix H of Broad Agency Announcement (the announcement) No. NNH19ZCQ001K. Broad Agency Announcements typically provide for the acquisition of basic and applied research for new and creative research or development solutions to scientific and engineering problems. The rules for these procurements are not the same as those for standard competitive federal procurements, as agencies generally enjoy broader discretion in selecting the proposals most suitable to meeting their research and development needs when utilizing broad agency announcement procedures. The announcement was issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration."

In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award. NASA's announcement provided that the number of awards the agency would make was subject to the amount of funding available for the program. In addition, the announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all. In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program. As a result, GAO denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.

Letter From Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos To NASA Administrator Bill Nelson: Human Landing System

"In April (prior to your confirmation as NASA administrator), only one HLS bidder, SpaceX, was offered the opportunity to revise their price and funding profile, leading to their selection. Blue Origin was not offered the same opportunity. That was a mistake, it was unusual, and it was a missed opportunity. But it is not too late to remedy. We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path. Our Appendix H HLS contract is still open and can be amended.

With that in mind and on behalf of the National Team, we formally offer the following for your consideration:

• Blue Origin will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2B to get the program back on track right now. This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments. This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up.

• Blue Origin will, at its own cost, contribute the development and launch of a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit of the lunar descent element to further retire development and schedule risks. This pathfinder mission is offered in addition to the baseline plan of performing a precursor uncrewed landing mission prior to risking any astronauts to the Moon. This contribution to the program is above and beyond the over $1B of corporate contribution cited in our Option A proposal that funds items such as our privately developed BE-7 lunar lander engine and indefinite storage of liquid hydrogen in space. All of these contributions are in addition to the $2B waiver of payments referenced above.

• Finally, Blue Origin will accept a firm, fixed-priced contract for this work, cover any system development cost overruns, and shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns."

Keith's note: You have to wonder who advises Jeff Bezos on his outreach, PR, and overall tone setting. More than half of the stories that have circulated (or continue to circulate) about his flight last week are not positive. Indeed some are overtly negative. So, instead of sending a private letter to Bill Nelson to make this offer, he releases this thing with the clear intent of trying to use public pressure and money (as an afterthought) to Big Foot the matter and reverse the HLS decision. Bad press about space billionaires having their way in space now mixes with space billionaires trying to change NASA decisions that they do not like. No one benefits from this.

GAO is not deterred by external pressure and they will make their decision known - possibly as early as next week. Nelson is going to have a hard time arguing with the GAO's protest ruling if they side with NASA's earlier decision - especially since the basic factor that guided the sole source decision i.e. not enough money for more than one contractor - is still in force. NASA decided to make one HLS award since they could not make a decision to spend money that they simply do not have. NASA still has no idea where they are going to get all the money to keep the program of record on track for a 2024 lunar landing - or any other landing.

Members of Congress from the affected states will pressure NASA to consider this offer. Bill Nelson did not really hide his displeasure at the down select to one vendor so he may not put up much of a fight. The GAO analysis was made without this offer from Blue Origin. Blue Origin only focuses on their side of the equation and does not take into account the things NASA will have to do to adopt their proposal. And if they accept Blue Origin's proposal then why shouldn't they just give Dynetics a second shot or, for that matter SpaceX and the other bidders and just re-do the whole procurement. Heck, Elon could throw a billion Bitcoin in ;-) If this after-the-fact proposal is now considered, then the net result will certainly be yet another delay in the process of developing a Human Landing System for Artemis. It also sends a message to big aerospace that you can reverse NASA decisions - if you offer enough money.

Besides, SpaceX may well decide to just go to the Moon anyway on their own dime.

Media Invited to Administrator's State of NASA Remarks on Climate, Artemis

"In his first address to the workforce, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will discuss the agency's plans for future climate science missions, the agency's plans for a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, and more during a State of NASA event at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 2. The event will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website."

GAO: NASA Lunar Programs: Significant Work Remains, Underscoring Challenges to Achieving Moon Landing in 2024

Marc's note: With the current budget process and timelines, does anyone seriously believe a human landing will happen in 2024 anymore?

"What GAO Found

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has initiated eight lunar programs since 2017 to help NASA achieve its goal of returning humans to the Moon. NASA plans to conduct this mission, known as Artemis III, in 2024. NASA has made progress by completing some early lunar program development activities including initial contract awards, but an ambitious schedule decreases the likelihood of NASA achieving its goal. For example, NASA's planned pace to develop a Human Landing System, shown below, is months faster than other spaceflight programs, and a lander is inherently more complex because it supports human spaceflight.

Rep. Cartwright Holding Artemis Supplier and NEPA Small Business Industry Day with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Monday, May 24

"The event will focus on opportunities for small business contracting to support space exploration technology research and NASA's Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. An informational session will take place from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. ET, and matchmaking breakout sessions will be held from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. ET."

Keith's note: Where do I start?

1."first woman and the next man" is Trump lingo. "first woman and the first person of color" is Biden lingo. Gotta keep your memes and tag lines current, NASA. Just sayin'

2. Landing on the Moon "by 2024". Really? Who writes this stuff?

3. While the NASA OSBP Twitter account mentions this, if you go to the NASA Office of Small Business Programs website there is absolutely no mention of this event even though the NASA OSBP guy's smiling face is all over the graphic that came with this press release. (Update: they added something to their website late in the day).

4. This is a big deal for Pennsylvania, the Vice President's home state. So you'd think that the folks there would be psyched and all keyed up to support - or at least mention - this event. Nope. There is no mention at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce or at Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, etc.

5. There is mention of this event at @NASA, @NASAArtemis, @NASA_SLS, or @NASA_Orion on Twitter, or on the NASA.gov calendar, NASA TV schedule, NASA Artemis website, NASA commercial space website,

As you can see below NASA's Small Business team is not exactly up to date on the things that they are supposed to be up to date on. If they can't bother to be current with the important stuff then why should people take them seriously?

- That NASA SLS Small Business Report Is Out Of Date, earlier post
- SLS Spurred The Private Sector By Being A Bad Example, earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth NASA New Business Event, earlier post
- Another NASA Business Event Few Will Ever Hear About, earlier post
- JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update), earlier post
- NASA Centers Can't Be Bothered To Mention The Economic Report, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post

Blue Origin's loss to SpaceX on the lunar lander contract may get Congress to do something it hadn't done before: Give NASA extra money, Washington Post

"Along with Dynetics, the defense contractor that also lost out on the contract, Blue Origin protested NASA's decision, saying the space agency "executed a flawed acquisition." It also took to Capitol Hill, lobbying its allies in Congress to force NASA to come up with the additional money and make a second award. On Wednesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) of Washington state, where Blue Origin is headquartered, came through, introducing legislation that calls for NASA to do just that. The legislation, which passed as an amendment to another bill, would authorize but not appropriate an additional $10 billion to the Artemis program through fiscal 2026. It also calls for NASA to pick a second winner for the contract."

Senate committee approves 2021 NASA Authorization, requires second HLS system, Space Policy Online

"This new NASA authorization bill would require NASA to fund HLS design, development, testing and evaluation "for not fewer than 2 entities" and gives the agency just 30 days after the bill is enacted into law to do it. How NASA could implement that in such a short time is a mystery. It went through a source selection process and chose a winner with documentation as to why. That decision is under protest at GAO, which must make a ruling by August 4. GAO can uphold the award or require NASA to change its decision. Either way, how an additional layer of congressionally-directed procurement action would affect that process is murky and could hang like a Damoclean sword over HLS, delaying its development and the timeline for putting astronauts back on the Moon. HLS is necessary for ferrying crews between lunar orbit and the surface."

NASA Suspends HLS Contract With SpaceXS, SpacePolicyOnline

"NASA has suspended its contract with SpaceX for the landing system to take astronauts down to and back from the lunar surface. Two other competitors for the contract, Blue Origin and Dynetics, have filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and NASA issued the stop work order until GAO resolves the matter. NASA awarded 10-month contracts to three companies one year ago today to further develop their concepts for Human Landing Systems (HLS) as part of the Artemis program to return astronauts to the lunar surface: SpaceX, Dynetics, and Blue Origin's "National Team" that includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO: "Pursuant to the GAO protests, NASA instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended until GAO resolves all outstanding litigation related to this procurement."

- NASA's Dilemma: Put Humans On The Moon Or Feed Big Aerospace, earlier post
- Blue Origin Formally Protests NASA HLS Contract Award, earlier post
- Formal NASA Human Lander Announced, earlier post

Keith's note: Congress has consistently appropriated a small fraction of what is needed to continue with Human Lander work. The proposed FY 2022 budget from the Biden Administration still falls far short of what NASA has said that it needs to implement the Artemis program of record. NASA cannot award contracts with money it does not have - or will not get. According to the GAO, who will handle the Blue Origin and Dynetics HLS complaints, the Antideficiency Act provides a rather blunt roadblock to these protests since this law "prohibits federal agencies from obligations or expending federal funds in advance or in excess of an appropriation, and from accepting voluntary services."

Faced with a substantial shortfall in funds, NASA had to take that fact into account as it evaluated HLS proposals. Significant technical merits and issues aside, the numbers from Dynetics and Blue Origin were simply beyond the possible. SpaceX was much cheaper at $2.89 billion and an adjustment in its stated cost was possible. So, NASA went to the lowest bidder and asked if they could adjust their price. They did.

Blue Origin has stated that its bid was $5.99 billion. NASA stated that the Dynetics bid was "significantly higher" than the Blue Origin bid. It seriously stretches the imagination to think that they could match the SpaceX bid. Now they are protesting the decision.

NASA has not said whether they will pause work with SpaceX or on-going work with Blue Origin and Dynetics while GAO examines the two protests. Protests like these rarely succeed. The only real impact these protests will likely have is to delay work on meeting Artemis programmatic goals.

There are other threats too. Many in Congress would rather have NASA own the human lander outright which would cost more. Others think that the budgetary underpinnings of the Artemis program are too uncertain to make such a contract award. As such, even if GAO dismisses these two HLS contract award protests, NASA still faces a lot of resistance as it strives to put Americans back on the lunar surface.

Of course Big Aerospace could dial up their lobbying game and push Congress for billions more to build their systems. NASA Administrator-in-waiting Bill Nelson has been a big SLS fan since Day One, so you know that he'd certainly be listening to that option with some lingering interest.

The real question is where the Biden Administration decides to come down on all of this. Either they can adapt to national fiscal realities, think outside the box as they did with the SpaceX decision, and try to minimize the lingering impact of NASA's perennial delays and overruns -- or they can give in to Big Aerospace and pump more money into a clearly broken process that has yet to show a chance of ever meeting a program deadline.

- Blue Origin Formally Protests NASA HLS Contract Award, earlier post
- NASA Submits A Budget - And Adjusts Its Artemis Aspirations, earlier post
- House FY 2021 Budget Makes 2024 Moon Landing Doubtful, earlier post
- Senators Urge Biden To Fully Fund Artemis Human Landing System, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Planned Artemis Launch Dates Are "Highly Unlikely", earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- OIG On NASA's Challenges: A Moon Landing By 2024 Is Unlikely, earlier post
- Congress Still Wants An Artemis Plan From NASA, earlier post

And so on. More here.

Blue Origin Filed Protest With GAO Over NASA's HLS Option A decision, Blue Origin

"Today, Blue Origin filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding NASA's HLS Option A decision. Attached is a redacted copy of the protest. Additionally, here is a statement from Blue Origin: "NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute. In NASA's own words, it has made a 'high risk' selection. Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America's return to the Moon. Because of that, we've filed a protest with the GAO."

Redacted copy of Blue Origin's formal protest, 175 pages, PDF

Keith's note: They say this, which has some inherent logic:

"NASA's selection of only a single provider based on the Source Selection Statement claim that "NASA's current fiscal year budget did not support even a single Option A award" is inconsistent with NASA's documented acquisition strategy and public statements. Additionally, with only a single HLS provider, NASA risks the Nation's return to the Moon entirely on SpaceX's ability to deliver its proposed solution - Starship and the new Super Heavy booster - despite the "immense complexity" and "high risk" NASA itself documented in the source selection rationale."

But then 2 inches away on the same page they say this - which is simply a reflection of how Big Aerospace sees the world i.e. everyone needs to piece of the pie - even if it is more expensive - and requires funds that NASA simply does not have:

"This single award endangers domestic supply chains for space and negatively impacts jobs across the country, by placing NASA space exploration in the hands of one vertically integrated enterprise that manufactures virtually all its own components and obviates a broad-based nationwide supplier network. Such supplier consolidation cuts most of the space industrial base out of NASA exploration, impacting national security, jobs, the economy, and NASA's own future options. Exacerbating this situation is the fact that SpaceX's Starship uses the Super Heavy booster. Starship is incompatible with other U.S. commercial launch vehicles, further restricting NASA's alternatives and entrenching SpaceX's monopolistic control of NASA deep space exploration."

Source Selection Statement, NASA

"My selection determination with regard to Blue Origin's proposal is based upon the results of its evaluation considered in light of the Agency's currently available and anticipated future funding for the HLS Program. Blue Origin's proposal has merit and is largely in alignment with the technical and management objectives set forth in the solicitation. Nonetheless, I am not selecting Blue Origin for an Option A contract award because I find that its proposal does not present sufficient value to the Government when analyzed pursuant to the solicitation's evaluation criteria and methodology."

Artemis Status Update: NASA OIG

"While NASA had been working for the past decade to return astronauts to the Moon, in March 2019 the White House directed the Agency to accelerate its timetable by approximately 4 years in order to land on the Moon by the end of 2024. Although the new Administration has expressed support of the Artemis program, it has not spoken in any detail about its human exploration plans or its intent to maintain the goal of a 2024 lunar landing. .... Nonetheless, the Agency faces significant challenges that we believe will make its current plan to launch Artemis I in 2021 and ultimately land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024 highly unlikely."

"... At the time of our November 2020 report, the Gateway program faced challenges related to the PPE's propulsion system development, vehicle weight, and mass levels, as well as defining requirements for the HALO component to avoid schedule delays and cost increases."

"... In January 2021, the program reported no schedule margin for a January 2024 launch with the PPE component facing the same challenges reported in November 2020. Combined with issues in HALO's thermal control systems, as of March 2021 the program faces up to 12 months of schedule risk."

"... As we reported in November 2020, the Agency suggested that an integration on the ground and a co-manifested launch of the PPE and HALO would also result in time savings. However, the requirements changes resulting from co-manifesting the PPE and HALO launches are not certain to result in the Agency's suggested savings and instead have led to schedule delays."

"... NASA's plan was to "downselect" from three contractors to one or two to begin the HLS development phase with award of a development contract in April 2021. According to NASA officials, the wide gulf in funding between what the program requested and what it received in FY 2021 jeopardized the Agency's plan to select two contractors to build the HLS. At the time, officials expressed concern that selecting a single contractor would result in a lack of redundancy and potenially higher, less sustainable future HLS costs due to a lack of competition. Nevertheless, on April 16, 2021, NASA announced award of a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX for the HLS. Despite selecting a single contractor, the reduction in funding will likely slow HLS development and extend its schedule. Given the lunar lander's central role, any development delays could jeopardize NASA's plans to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024 or the foreseeable future."

"... Although the new Administration has publicly expressed support for the Artemis missions, it has not weighed in on the Agency's current plans for a lunar landing by the end of 2024. Nonetheless, achieving any date close to this ambitious goal--and reaching Mars in the 2030s--will require strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the President, Congress, and NASA, as well as stable and timely funding."

Coalition for Deep Space Comment As NASA Continues Path to Return to Moon

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) applauds NASA for awarding a Human Landing System (HLS) contract for the Artemis program. Along with the Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft, Exploration Ground Systems, and the Gateway, the HLS is a critical component for enabling the return of astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo era."

Keith's note: If you read this Coalition for Deep Space Exploration statement carefully you will see that while they "applaud NASA" on the HLS contract thing they are so small that can't even mention or congratulate SpaceX. SpaceX is not a member of the Coalition but all of the Big Aerospace companies who lost out on this contract are members.

Chairwoman Johnson Statement on NASA's Artemis Human Landing System Award

"I am disappointed that the Acting NASA leadership decided to make such a consequential award prior to the arrival of a new permanent NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator. The decision to make the award today also comes despite the obvious need for a re-baselining of NASA's lunar exploration program, which has no realistic chance of returning U.S. astronauts to the Moon by 2024. While work continues on the upcoming Artemis-1 mission, it will be critically important for the new NASA leadership team to carry out its own review of all elements of NASA's Moon-Mars initiative to ensure that this major national undertaking is put on a sound footing."

Keith's note: My question at the NASA press event: "Senator Nelson has been a staunch SLS supporter since day one. If NASA really used the capability of SpaceX Starship architecture to its fullest sustainable extent this could easily set forth a path to reduce the need for SLS launches. Sen. Nelson's confirmation hearing is next week. If Sen. Nelson says that this procurement decision should be revisited is NASA prepared to re-do the initial procurement to pick more than one HLS contractor? And if Congress needs to enact changes in law to accomodate a procurement change has NASA given thought as to how that would be accomplished?"

Jurczyk: "We have no plans to change our architecture for lunar landing missions. We did this procurement with a competition etc etc and made selection and we are moving forward we have no intent to revisit the selection."

NASA Picks SpaceX to Land Next Americans on Moon

"At least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon. Another goal of the Artemis program includes landing the first person of color on the lunar surface. The firm-fixed price, milestone-based contract total award value is $2.89 billion."

Acting NASA Administrator Statement on Agency FY 2022 Discretionary Request

"Keeps NASA on the path to landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program. This goal aligns with President Biden's commitment to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all. With NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, as well as U.S. commercial partnerships with the human landing system and Gateway lunar outpost, we will send astronauts to the Moon and provide learning opportunities for future missions."

NASA's Fiscal Year 2022 Discretionary Request

"The President's 2022 discretionary request includes $24.7 billion for NASA, a $1.5 billion or 6.3-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level."

Keith's note: Note that the Trump era stock phrase "first woman and the next man" has been replaced with "first woman and the first person of color".

Keith's update: I just got this statement from former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

"I am extremely pleased to see that the Biden administration has increased funding for NASA in the FY2022 budget request. This budget continues the bipartisan Moon to Mars effort under the Artemis program. I urge the Senate to quickly confirm Senator Nelson so that he can assess and advocate for NASA requirements."

Building Artemis Back Better

Acting NASA chief says 2024 Moon landing no longer a "realistic" target, Ars Technica

"NASA's acting administrator said Wednesday evening that the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024 no longer appears to be feasible. "The 2024 lunar landing goal may no longer be a realistic target due to the last two years of appropriations, which did not provide enough funding to make 2024 achievable," the acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk, told Ars. "In light of this, we are reviewing the program for the most efficient path forward."

Keith's note: This is, of course true - but it is not the whole story. It was widely assumed within NASA that when Vice President Pence suddenly advanced the Artemis lunar landing date to 2024 that it would be rather hard to make that happen. But NASA had to accept that challenge - and they did and worked hard to make it happen. But it did not happen. The prime reason for the problems lay at the feet of the chronic delays and cost overruns for SLS and its associated ground support systems. Even when NASA got the money it needed it still fell behind year after year as both the GAO and OIG noted with consistent regularity.

Then, of course, there was the ever-changing Gateway which added and then discarded features faster than the NASA graphic artists could update the pretty website imagery. And the lunar lander grew larger and more complex every time NASA mentioned it. So ... Jurczyk is right - he is just not fessing up to the whole story. It is mea culpa time for NASA.

NASA is as much to blame for the Artemis quagmire as past Congresses and White House Administrations are. Now, a new Administration has thrown a hopeful lifeline to the Artemis program albeit a vague one. The pandemic, a crashing economy, exploding government debt, and dysfunctional politics is going to force every program - in every agency - to redouble its explanation as to why it needs to be done.

The Biden Administration's slogan "Build Back Better" should be something that everyone at NASA pays attention to. Artemis is going to change - and be fixed - for the "better". A reformatted Artemis may well accomplish much of its original intent - but NASA may also be directed to focus human spaceflight efforts elsewhere as well. But refocusing of human spaceflight at NASA - regardless of what that ends up being - is only going to work out well if NASA stops the whole smoke and mirrors, shift the blame, give-us-what-we-want-because-we-say-so, tactics and openly admits that it did things wrong with Artemis.

Moreover, instead of being an outlier when it comes to overall national priorities, NASA needs to start becoming more of a "whole of government" player. Otherwise it may just find itself standing there with an empty, outstretched hand. NASA is also going to have to learn to let go of some things and adopt other novel approaches in the process of building back Artemis better. As soon as the new TBD NASA Administrator arrives the agency needs to hit the ground running.

- Big Aerospace Still Wants Everything That Trump Promised, earlier post
- Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- Surprise: SLS Will Cost 30% More Than The Last Big Cost Increase, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Surprise, Surprise: Orion Is Behind Schedule, Over Cost, And Lacks Transparency, earlier post
- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- previous SLS/Orion posts

NASAWatch: "With regard to the exploration of Mars: just as the case with the Moon, there is a growing international presense in orbit and on the surface. Indeed the UAE and China joined the Mars club just last week. Just as things are becoming more complex with lunar exploration, wouldn't the issues of planetary protection, traffic management, communications & science collaboration demonstrate a need for the establishment of good practices on Mars - especially in advance of possible commercial human missions?"

Thomas Zurbuchen: "You are of course correct - that is that the exploration of Mars is one that has many players now - and we're so excited about the two missions that arrived only days ago. We celebrate all peaceful exploration of outer space - and as especially it is done as individual countries are spending their treasure towards benefiting the science community as a whole. So, we're really glad for that. It is also true that as we already have a number of spacecraft in orbit around Mars, for example, we have had a number of discussions - bilateral discussions - with the community overall just to make sure that these assets are safe in orbit around Mars. Discussions with the community overall need to focus on the benefit of all players who are in orbit. It is also true with the Artemis Accords, as you said, that they were seeking to create a platform with multiple signees in the international community that were already getting experience from the Moon. It is very much worth thinking about the framework within which we expand go forward - as we would expect given the excitement of Mars - with the multiple players that will still enter the community of Mars Explorers going forward.."

Letter From U.S. Senators To President Biden Regarding NASA's Human Landing System (HLS) Program

"NASA's Artemis Program will return America to deep space, support economic recovery, strengthen national security, promote scientific research, and inspire the next generation. The HLS Program will develop 21st century crewed lunar landers - a critical piece of the Artemis architecture. We urge you to proceed with the planned selection and to include all necessary funding for HLS in your FY 2022 budget request."

- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- Jurczyk Is Sticking With A 2024 Artemis Lunar Landing Date - For Now, earlier post

We Interviewed the New Head of NASA About SpaceX, China, and Aliens, Futurism

"Question: Your predecessor laid out a lot of highly-ambitious plans, like landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024 and establishing a long-term lunar base. I assume Artemis isn't being abandoned, but are you still pursuing those same timelines?

Jurczyk: Every indication we have so far, in week two of the new administration, is that Artemis will not be abandoned. ... I think that the Moon-to-Mars strategy of Artemis is still our strategic vector. And then we have to look at the funding in our fiscal year 2021 appropriation. We've proposed roughly $3.2 billion in 2021 for the human landing system. And I think we received roughly about a quarter of that, about $850 million. So given that change in budget, particularly for that landing system, we'll have to look at the timeline for what we now call the Artemis III mission, which is the mission that would land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024. Mostly driven by budget and not necessarily by policy, we're looking at the timeline for the Artemis III mission and that might affect the Artemis IV mission. We are holding the Artemis I mission for later this year. The baseline is to launch in early November. That's the only uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft. And then we're planning on the crewed test flight, a mission to go around the Moon and return, Artemis II, in the 2023 timeframe."

NASA delays moon lander awards as Biden team mulls moonshot program, The Verge

"Last Wednesday, NASA told the three contractors that an extension to their development contracts "will be required," picking a new award date of April 30th. Under the Trump administration's timeline, the agency had planned to pick two of the three bidders in late February, giving a stamp of approval for two systems that would inevitably carry humans to the moon. The delay was all but certain: The spending bill Congress passed in December gives NASA $850 million for the Human Landing System program, far short of the $3.2 billion it needed to stick with the 2024 timeline."

Earlier posts on Artemis

SLS Green Run Update

Green Run Update: Data and Inspections Indicate Core Stage in Good Condition

"The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket Green Run team has reviewed extensive data and completed preliminary inspections that show the rocket's hardware is in excellent condition after the Green Run test that ignited all the engines at 5:27 p.m. EST at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. After analyzing initial data, the team determined that the shutdown after firing the engines for 67.2-seconds on Jan.16 was triggered by test parameters that were intentionally conservative to ensure the safety of the core stage during the test."

Keith's note: I am hearing that within NASA that many people think that it is almost a given that they need to try the Green Run test again. Its that whole 2024 deadline thing that is pushing them right now. Well, the impetus for that deadline - widely seen as impossible to meet - will evaporate at noon on Wednesday. There is broad consensus that a landing date along the lines of 2028 is considered to be more likely - as noted below. The reasons are simple - the whole Artemis program is woefully behind schedule and Congress did not give NASA the budget needed to try and make it happen. Yet if you read this tweet or heard the NASA PAO announcer during the test the agency and Congress are still holding to the 2024 date in spite of admitting the obvious.

I asked about this at the SLS -post test press event - rather, I tried to ask about this. Despite sending an emailed question to NASA PAO during the SLS post-test press event - exactly like all other media did - PAO decided not to let my question be asked. But they allowed every other question through. So I complained. I had originally asked "Sen. Wicker tweeted today that NASA is going to land on the Moon in 2024 and on Mars in 2029. Can you explain how this is possible given the budget NASA has been given?". This was in response to a tweet that Wicker issued right after the test:

This is the reply NASA PAO just sent me:

"We're grateful for the strong bipartisan support for the Artemis program as reflected in the FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriation passed and signed last month. Congress continues to recognize the value in America's Moon to Mars plans, providing funding for human landing system (HLS) development. As you've heard me say before, funding is one of the challenges we have to navigate as we continue our work toward a sustainable exploration program that lasts a generation. Landing the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 remains our goal, but NASA will work with the incoming Biden Administration to do it smartly and get it done right."

In other words yet another non-answer answer.

Keith's note: In summary NASA is not sure how long the engines fired. Seriously - they said that they do not know. They saw a flash near engine 4 and moments later the rocket commanded itself to shut down. They do not know the cause of the shutdown, nor whether the test needs to be run again nor whether they can ship the rocket to KSC. They do not know if a flight in 2021 is possible.

Keith's note: The 4 engines lit up and ran for 2 minutes or so before there was a MCF (major component failure call) and then they continued to fire for a few more seconds before they shut down. This was supposed to be an 8 minute test and various sources have suggested that more firing time than 2 minutes was needed - even if the full 8 minutes was not achieved - so as to get all the required data. There will be a press conference in several hours. What is somewhat baffling is how NASA PAO only had a prewritten script for a successful test (and presumably one for a total failure) but not one for something in between. This was not the success that PAO claims it was. Yet their on-air host went on and on as if everything was fine. Stay tuned.

Final FY 2021 NASA Funding Provides Only 25% of HLS Request, Space Policy Online

"Congress finalized FY2021 appropriations today. Overall, NASA will receive $23.271 billion, almost $2 billion less than requested. Importantly for the Trump Administration's Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, it provides only $850 million instead of $3.4 billion for Human Landing Systems."

Artemis I Orion Progress Update, NASA

"During their troubleshooting, engineers evaluated the option to "use as is" with the high-degree of available redundancy or remove and replace the box. They determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system."

SLS Team Completes Propellant Loading of Core Stage During Green Run Test, NASA

"Part of the test was to simulate the countdown with the tanks loaded, leading up to 33 seconds prior to the engines firing. However, the test ended a few minutes short of the planned countdown duration.The core stage and the B-2 test stand are in excellent condition, and it does not appear to be an issue with the hardware. The team is evaluating data to pinpoint the exact cause of the early shutdown. Then they will decide if they are ready to move forward with the final test, a hot fire when all four engines will be fired simultaneously."

Space Launch System Exploration Upper Stage Passes Critical Design Review

"To accomplish NASA's Artemis I lunar mission, the Block 1 variant of SLS will use a Boeing/United Launch Alliance Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage with one RL-10 engine to take an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight to the moon. SLS Block 1 rockets will be used for two subsequent crewed flights, including the first human mission to lunar orbit since the Apollo program."

Keith's note: Where to begin? There is nowhere near enough money to keep the Artemis program focused on a 2024 landing - or any landing. NASA is flying Orion on Artemis I with broken hardware because the spacecraft was designed poorly so as to make routine replacements hard to do. The SLS Green Run should be running a bit more smoothly given how many years NASA has had to prepare for it and the last test before firing shut down early? As for the Boeing CDR release: What about human lunar landings on SLS Block I - isn't that what Artemis III is supposed to do? It is nice that the CDR is complete but there is no approved funding to actually build and fly the EUS. Yet Boeing writes these releases to downplay the Block 1 capabilities as if the EUS/Block 1B is a done deal. It is not.

Not enough funding, flying broken hardware on Orion, a flawed booster test, and faith-based planning for an upper stage that is not even funded. Such is the current status of NASA's new Moon program.

S.2800 NASA Authorization Act

Canada Heads To The Moon

A Canadian astronaut will be on the first NASA Artemis mission to the Moon , SpaceQ

"So I'm excited that a Canadian will be on Artemis II. But what I'm telling you about with all these other opportunities is that we are paving the way to Canadians doing even more things in space, eventually, hopefully one day Canadian on the Moon, and on Mars, those are our goals. And we believe in the trickle down effects from them."

NASA, Canadian Space Agency Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program, NASA

"Under this agreement, CSA will provide the Gateway's external robotics system, including a next-generation robotic arm, known as Canadarm3. CSA also will provide robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, which will enable payload installation including that of the first two scientific instruments aboard the Gateway. The agreement also marks NASA's commitment to provide two crew opportunities for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions, one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II."

GAO: NASA Human Space Exploration - Significant Investments in Future Capabilities Require Strengthened Management Oversight

"What GAO Found

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) again delayed the planned launch date for Artemis I, the first uncrewed test flight involving three closely related human spaceflight programs--the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS). Together, these programs aim to continue human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. The most recent delay, to November 2021, resulted in part from manufacturing challenges and represents a 36-month slip since NASA established a schedule to measure performance in 2014. This new launch date does not account for the effects of COVID-19. According to NASA officials, COVID-19 delays and schedule risks will place pressure on NASA's ability to achieve this launch date.

Development cost estimates for key programs also increased. The cost of the SLS program increased by 42.5 percent and the EGS program by 32.3 percent since 2014, for a combined increase of over $3 billion, bringing the total to $11.5 billion. NASA does not plan to complete revised estimates for Orion, which are tied to the second, crewed test flight (Artemis II) before spring 2021.

NASA awarded billions of dollars in development and production contracts to support flights beyond Artemis I, but the flight schedule has changed frequently due to a lack of clear requirements and time frames for planned capability upgrades. Limited NASA oversight also places efforts to plan and execute future flights at risk of adverse outcomes, such as increased costs or delays. For example, NASA is committed to establishing cost and schedule performance baselines for these efforts, but it plans to do so too late in the acquisition process to be useful as an oversight tool. In addition, senior leaders do not receive consistent and comprehensive information at quarterly briefings on future efforts, such as a program to begin developing a more powerful upper stage for SLS. This is because current updates provided to NASA management focus primarily on the more short-term Artemis I and II flights. This approach places billions of dollars at risk of insufficient NASA oversight."

Keith's note: As you can see in the GAO report there is a series of dominoes that will fall and will push Artemis well past 2024: Green Run delays; shrinking times between Artemis I, Artemis II, and Artemis III, and less assurance that funding will be inplace to keep the whole party going. Also, there is a growing concern about flying Artemis II with full-up ECLSS and a crew for the first time and significant heartburn about flying a lunar lander with a crew for the first time on Artemis III. NASA now says that Artemis III will land without the Gateway - but that Gateway is needed in order for the Artemis program to be "sustainable". Yet Gateway will actually make the Artemis program harder to be "sustainable" given the delays and overruns experienced thus far. This cannot go on forever - can it? Nothing about this program has ever happend on time or within budget. If NASA can land humans on the Moon without Gateway in 2024 then it may actually be more "sustainable" to keep doing it that way.

Then there is this part of the report that reeks of naive faith-based program management. After a decade of delays and cost overruns, NASA is now hoping that "Boeing develops more expertise and certainty in the production of core stages and EUS." Why would Boeing want to change from a winning formula filled with cash and acceptance of delays?

"The contracts are predominantly cost-reimbursement type, under which the government bears the risk of increases in the costs. NASA is taking steps to control long-term program costs by planning to transition to fixed-price type contracting and other cost reduction strategies, but it will be years before NASA is in a position to do so. ... The SLS program plans to control long-term production costs of SLS core stages and EUS by structuring the SLS Stages Production and Evolution contract to allow a transition from costtype to firm-fixed-price deliverables. Program officials told us they expect the first series of core stages and EUS under this contract to be produced under cost-type orders, but they expect to eventually transition to the use of firm-fixed-price orders as Boeing develops more expertise and certainty in the production of core stages and EUS."

- Previous SLS/Orion posts
- Previous Artemis Posts

National Geographic Orders NASA Series 'Return To The Moon', Variety

"National Geographic has commissioned event series "Return To The Moon" (working title), which will chronicle NASA's historic Artemis program that will see a woman step on the lunar surface for the first time. ... The series will track the Artemis program right up to the moment NASA lands the first woman and the next man on the moon. Shooting across four years, from now until the lunar landing launch, it will follow the progress of the mission, through Artemis I's orbit of the moon, Artemis II's crewed flight around the Moon and ultimately Artemis III's lunar landings and return to Earth."

NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions

"Joseph Acaba, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover (in orbit), Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins (in orbit), Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins, Stephanie Wilson"

TrumpSpace Series Finale

Vice President Mike Pence is set to name a cadre of Artemis astronauts, Ars Technica

"Vice President Mike Pence will announce a cadre of 18 astronauts from whom NASA is likely to choose the commanders, pilots, and mission specialists who will go to the Moon as part of the Artemis Program. Multiple sources said Pence would release a list of names on Wednesday at the National Space Council meeting in Florida as part of an update on NASA's Artemis Moon program. These will not be formal crew assignments for upcoming missions but rather a cadre from which astronauts will be selected for upcoming flights. Some of the astronauts will be in attendance."

Vice President Mike Pence to Convene Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council

"The Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 9th, 2020 at 12:30 PM EST. The meeting will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting will be livestreamed here on NASA TV, and additional details will be forthcoming. Following NASA's COVID-19 response protocols, the use of face coverings will be required for invited guests, and hand sanitizer stations will be available. Attendance will be limited to promote social distancing, and temperature screenings will be required prior to entry."

Keith's note: The other day I asked about Artemis Astronauts, training, etc. (see NASA Releases Science Plan For First Artemis Human Landing Mission). I asked when crews would be selected, when training would begin, etc. In response I got a non-answer. OK, so the Vice President was going to make a big a announcement. I get the non-answer, don't steal his thunder thing. But, in their defense, everyone on the NASA side of the media briefing was either not in the loop as to what was going to be announced by Pence or ordered to not spill the beans. The smart thing would have been to hold this science plan briefing after the Vice President's announcement - not several days before it so as to not put the NASA folks in this situation. Doing so might have also served to bolster the notion that NASA has been thinking the whole 2024 deadline through seriously. But NASA PAO is not known for thinking things through like that.

After the "Make Space Great Again" series finale thing at KSC is over I will submit some questions to NASA PAO. It is unlikely that they will actually answer them - and if they do, the answers will be designed to occupy characters in an email - not to provide substance. Just Remember: NASA says (with a straight face) that it is going to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 - their deadline to do so is exactly 4 years from today.

Four years from today.


- NASA Releases Science Plan For First Artemis Human Landing Mission, earlier post
- DRAFT Agenda: Meeting of the National Space Council Wednesday, December 09, 2020, earlier post
- National Space Council Superspreader Series Finale (Update), earlier post
- Earlier TrumpSpace postings

NASA Invites Media to Discuss Science Priorities for Artemis III Moon Landing

"NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Monday, Dec. 7, to discuss the release of a report defining the agency's science priorities for the Artemis III mission, which will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024. The teleconference will stream live on NASA's website."

NASA Artemis III Science Definition Team report

"The Artemis III mission will be the first human mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st Century, and will build on the legacy of Apollo to usher in the modern era of human exploration and development in deep space. The lunar surface is an ideal location to answer fundamental planetary science questions. In the 50 years since humans last visited the Moon, new advances arising from robotic lunar missions, reanalysis of older data, modeling, and sample analysis have produced dramatic results and new questions about planetary volcanism, volatiles, impact processes, tectonics, and the lunar environment. Driven by new questions, we set out a robust science plan for the Artemis III crew return to the lunar surface."

Keith's note: According to this document NASA still does not know how it is going to land humans on the Moon and return them to Earth. At this point prior to Apollo landings there were posters on the wall of every school room in America laying out the Apollo mission profile. NASA has 4 calendar years to figure this out - they need to design, test, and fly the hardware - and it all needs to work. There is no room for error in the current schedule. Four years out and crews have yet to be selected. Crew training facilities do not yet exist since much of the mission hardware is still TBD. We are about to return to a world we left half a century ago and we seem to be in a hurry to do so.

"Artemis III will be the first human mission to the Moon in the 21st Century. Astronauts aboard Orion for Artemis III will rendezvous with a Human Landing System (HLS) vehicle in lunar orbit to make their descent to the lunar South Pole. NASA has awarded three companies, Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX, to begin refining their HLS designs. Artemis III astronauts will spend up to 6.5 days on the surface, living inside the HLS crew cabin that they will then use to launch back to lunar orbit to rendezvous with Orion. The Artemis III crew may rendezvous with the lander at the Gateway or may board the lander directly from Orion. While the SLS will launch crew aboard Orion, and potentially carry co- manifested payloads to lunar orbit, the increasingly capable commercial launch market will be the workhorse of lunar development. Commercial rockets are expected to carry CLPS landers and many other surface and orbital assets, including Gateway modules after Artemis III."

My question at the media telecon: "The science part of the report looks great. I am confused about the human part. At this point prior to the Apollo landings - as early as 1965 - Apollo program astronauts were in the field training for lunar geology and flying simulators based on an established mission architecture. At the same point prior to the first landing the Artemis program only has part of this in place. When will you pick crews and start training in simulators and in the field - and how will you do that given that the mission architecture is still several years away from being defined? Can you really pull this off so as to be ready to go no later than 4 years from TODAY? It seems a bit compressed."

Ken Bowersox replied "We expect to see a lot of progress in the next year when down select to our commercial partners. As for talking training I expect you will see that in the next year or so." When I asked when field training is going to start Bowersox said that some of this already happens in the field and in places like Desert RATS "flight specific training will start 1.5 to 3 years prior to the mission." Jacob Bleacher added that Apollo veterans have provided some input into Artemis training.


NASA Selects Companies to Collect Lunar Resources for Artemis Demonstrations

"Space resources will play a key role in NASA's Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration. Moreover, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a vital role in a future human mission to Mars. Like many other operations, ISRU activities will be tested and developed on the Moon, building the required knowledge to implement new capabilities that will be necessary to overcome the challenges of a human mission to Mars."

Report of NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges, OIG

"Challenge 1: Landing the First Woman and the Next Man on the Moon by 2024

Given the multiple challenges outlined above, we believe the Agency will be hard-pressed to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024. At the very least, achieving any date close to this ambitious goal--and reaching Mars in the 2030s--will require strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the President, Congress, and NASA, as well as stable and timely funding. For its part, NASA must determine the true long-term costs of its human exploration programs, set realistic schedules, define system requirements and mission planning, form or firm up international partnerships, and leverage commercial space capabilities. Over the past decade, our oversight work has found NASA consistently struggling to address each of these significant issues and the Artemis mission's accelerated timetable will likely further exacerbate these challenges."

Keith's note: But wait - there's more:

"Challenge 2: Improving LEO moves here Management of Major Projects
Challenge 3: Sustaining a Human Presence in Low Earth Orbit
Challenge 4: Attracting and Retaining a Highly Skilled Workforce.
Challenge 5: Improving Oversight of Contracts, Grants, and Cooperative Agreements
Challenge 6: Managing and Mitigating Cybersecurity Risk
Challenge 7: Addressing Outdated Infrastructure and Facilities"

NASA's Management of the Gateway Program for Artemis Missions, NASA OIG

"NASA selected Maxar in May 2019 to provide the PPE under a fixed-price contract because the Agency anticipated few design and development changes. However, the contract value has increased by $78.5 million since the award, with more increases expected to accommodate additional evolving requirements and technical challenges. PPE has also experienced other contract management challenges, including the collapse of negotiations between Maxar and a subcontractor to provide its high-power electric propulsion system. ... In our judgment, NASA's acceleration of the acquisition for both the PPE and HALO before fully defining the Gateway's requirements added significant costs to the projects' development efforts and increases the risk of future schedule delays and additional cost increases."

Keith's 29 October note: Why does the NASA HQ STEM Engagement Office, NASA Wallops, and NASA Langley ignore this overtly space-themed activity that involves NASA employees - in Virginia? This 4-H activity is precisely the sort of new audience that NASA needs to be cultivating since they represent the "Artemis Generation" that NASA keeps talking about inspiring. I just asked Mike Kincaid, the AA at the STEM Engagement Office and HQ PAO NASA about this, FWIW.

Keith's 2 November Update: I never heard back from NASA HQ STEM Engagement Office or NASA PAO. A statewide space-related STEM activity is underway within driving distance of HQ. This activity utilizes NASA personnel and is aimed at the Artemis Generation. Yet NASA HQ and the NASA centers located in that state can't be bothered to make note of it.

Keith's 28 October update: I posted the following question to Jim Bridenstine at the AAS von Braun Symposium today: "NASA announced the presence of water on sunlit portions of the Moon. To use it ISRU will be required. Why has NASA not been talking about its extensive ISRU technology research in the wake of this announcement?" Bridenstine replied "Keith is right on. We need to put a focus on that. We formed the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium and brought in expertise from outside NASA ... NASA may or may not have all the answers so we're bringing people in from outside." He then went through a long list of technologies needed to do ISRU on the lunar surface.

Keith's 27 October note: Last week NASA started to hype an "exciting" announcement about the Moon (that's the word they used). OK - so yesterday's news more or less passes the "exciting" threshold. So - what does NASA do to follow up on the importance of this discovery to "sustainable" lunar presence that Jim Bridenstine talks about? Nothing. They had a week to dig up follow-on stories and contributing research and present them so as to build upon this news. But nevermind - that would suggest that NASA has a consistent whole-agency strategy for this whole Artemis thing.

Lunar ISRU 2019: Developing a New Space Economy Through Lunar Resources and Their Utilization Workshop Report

"Background: The United States has an ambitious plan to get humans to the Moon to stay and to get humans to Mars. Technologies to extract and process lunar resources still need to be demonstrated but architectures that make use of these resources will lead to eventual sustainability, even if initially the "resources" need to be brought from Earth. Care must be taken to not accept architectures that preclude future use of ISRU resources in order to meet early mission goals."

- Looks Like The Moon Has Water All Over The Place, earlier post
- "Exciting" Moon News. More Water?, earlier post

NASA, European Space Agency Formalize Artemis Gateway Partnership, NASA

"NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have finalized an agreement to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway. This agreement is an important element in a broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration and to demonstrate technologies necessary for a future human mission to Mars. The agreement, signed Tuesday, marks NASA's first formal commitment to launch international crew members to the lunar vicinity as part of NASA's Artemis missions."

ESA and NASA Sign Gateway MOU, ESA

"The historic agreement will see ESA Member States contribute a number of essential elements to the first human outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway. It confirms ESA's commitment to delivering at least two European Service Modules that provide electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen to NASA's Orion spacecraft - with more to come. ESA will also receive three flight opportunities for European astronauts to travel to and work on the Gateway."

NASA's SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon, NASA

"NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places. SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon's southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon's surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million - roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water - trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface."

Keith's note: I asked Jacob Bleacher: "Now that water seems to be a ubiquitous resource, one would think that the polar focus might pivot. Are you reconsidering landing sites as a result of this discovery? Up until now the Artemis program has put forth a persistent mantra about focusing human landings at the lunar south pole due to potential water resources. It has been polar, polar, polar." Bleacher replied that sunlight access more than half the time is also being sought in terms of power and you get that at the poles. "Water is one resource on the lunar resource but it is not the only resource - right now we are still focused on south polar region."

NASA to Announce New Science Results About Moon

"NASA will announce an exciting new discovery about the Moon from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at a media teleconference at 12 p.m. EDT Monday, Oct. 26. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency's website."

Keith's note: OK, let's use Google. Look what shows up if you search for some names, Moon, and SOFIA. Gee, I wonder if the "exciting" news has to do with water on the Moon.

INFRARED REMOTE SENSING OF VOLATILE COMPONENTS ON THE EARTH AND MOON, Casey I. Honniball, PhD Dissertation

"However, we developed a new approach to detect the actual water molecule on the Moon using observations at 6 µm, based on how geologists detect H2O in samples in the lab using infrared spectroscopy. Observations at 6 µm are only possible from an airborne infrared observatory, we were granted time on the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to collect data of the Moon. Using data from SOFIA we report the first direct detection of the water molecule on the illuminated lunar surface."

Lunar Observations from SOFIA: Recent Results and Next Plans

"Date: Monday, October 26, 2020 - 12:30pm PDT Speaker: Casey Honniball - Bill Reach Affiliation: NASA Goddard - SOFIA/USRA"

A Clearer Look at Lunar Surface Hydration, AGU

"Using the thermally corrected IRTF data, the authors confirm the temperature-dependent variation of hydration on the lunar surface. The surface appears less hydrated closer to local noon, at which time the surface reaches its maximum temperature. They also observe a latitudinal dependence, with more hydration appearing at higher latitudes, particularly in the southern hemisphere."

Of course, there is the ongoing issue of somewhat underwhelming support for SOFIA - and I guess they could use some good news - hence the hype. ARC, GSFC and USRA are really rolling out the red carpet for this "exciting" news. Stay tuned.

COVID-19--The largest isolation study in history: the value of shared learnings from spaceflight analogs, Nature (Open source)

"The world is currently experiencing the largest isolation experiment in history. In an attempt to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic numerous countries across the world have been shutting down economies, education, and public life. Governments have mandated strict regulations of quarantine and social distancing in an unprecedented manner. The effects of these measures on brain, behavior, neuro-humoral and immunological responses in humans are largely unknown. Life science research for space exploration has a long history in using high-fidelity spaceflight analogs to better understand the effect of prolonged isolation and confinement on genes, molecules, cells, neural circuits, and physiological systems to behavior. We here propose to leverage the extensive experience and data from these studies and build a bridge between spaceflight research and clinical settings to foster transdisciplinary approaches to characterize the neurobehavioral effects on the immune system and vice versa. These approaches are expected to develop innovative and efficient health screening tools, diagnostic systems, and treatments to mitigate health risks associated with isolation and confinement on Earth and during future exploratory spaceflight missions."

Keith's note: For NASA: This week's NASA Spaceline just came out and this article is listed. DLR and ESA supported it and IBMP and NASA data were used - so this is an international effort. Not that the ISS was just waiting for COVID-19 to happen so as to justify its existence, but there are some real parallels between LEO and deep space exploration and the way that people are currently working in isolation on Earth due to COVID-19. If you want to make the ISS seen as being relevant to real world issues (and vice versa) then making more prominent mention of research space medicine/space biology such as this is an option you might consider.

Everyone on Earth is participating in a long duration space travel isolation analog to some extent. We all wish it would end, but since we're going to be in this situation for quite some time to come perhaps there is something that NASA can offer to foster an understanding of what people in isolation are going through - and that people going through this experience may have something to offer to NASA in response.

HeroX Helps NASA Advance Lunar Exploration with a Miniaturized Payload Prototype Challenge, HeroX

"HeroX, the world's leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition "Honey I Built the NASA Payload, The Sequel" on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The challenge seeks to develop miniature payload prototypes that can be sent to the Moon to help fill gaps in lunar knowledge. Lunar resources are potentially abounding, and these prototypes can also help discover some of these key resources scientists think might be on the Moon."

Keith's note: This stuff is cool. NASA should do more of it. But, coolness, aside, NASA is not interested in making any mention if it as far as I can tell. If you go to the NASA Tournament Lab website no mention of this new challenge is made. Indeed the page was last updated on 9 July 2020. This NASA Tournament Lab is apparently run by the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) at JSC in collaboration with Harvard University - they do not mention this challenge either. Nor does SMD, HEOMD, STMD, or the Artemis web page. And the official Twitter account @nasa_ntl and the main NASA Twitter account for these sort of things at @NASASolve have not made any mention either.

Why hold these cool events if you don't bother to tell people about them, NASA?

NASA has announced the addition of seven additional countries as signatories of the Artemis Accords (text): Australia, Canada, Italy, Luxembourg, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The announcement was made today by NASA Administrator Bridenstine at the International Astronautics Conference. Bridenstine and Acting Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations Mike Gold held a press briefing in advance of the announcement.

The Artemis Accords were first announced by NASA in May 2020. These Accords are statements of principle and guidelines for behavior on the Moon and other locations in our solar system. They are built upon - and cite as references - earlier international agreements including the historic Outer Space Treaty first signed in 1967.

The Artemis Accords were originally announced by NASA but then went through a series of reviews and comments by a variety of nations and interested parties. The revised version that resulted is what these seven nations have signed onto.

House space subcommittee chair still seeking NASA plan for 2024 lunar landing, Space News

"The chair of the House space subcommittee says NASA has still not convinced her that the agency has a viable plan to return humans to the moon by 2024. Speaking at a Wilson Center event Oct. 6 about the geopolitics of space, Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) said she was waiting to see a plan from NASA that explained how the agency's Artemis program could meet its goal of a human return to the lunar surface in four years. "We still haven't seen a plan that shows us we can get to the moon on the 2024 schedule," she said, including the ability of NASA to manage "multiple, simultaneous, large" development programs and the various demonstrations leading up to that crewed landing."

Keith's note: Actually NASA did issue a thing with the word "plan" in it except it skips the whole concept of answering important questions as to how it will actually happen.

- Important Artemis Questions Will Be Answered Today (Update), earlier post
- House Appropriators Just Made Doing Artemis Landing More Difficult, earlier post
- NASA Hits The Pause Button Again On The Back-To-The-Moon Thing (Update), earlier post
- NASA Releases Its Artemis "Plan" - 5 Months Late, earlier post
- NASA Really Really Needs An Artemis Plan - Soon, earlier post
- Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

- Boeing Really Needs To Get Their Software Fixed, earlier post
- ASAP: Boeing Starliner Software Issue Potentially "Catastrophic", earlier post
- Boeing Dropped The Ball Again - And NASA Let Them, earlier post
- SLS Upper Stage Changes While Software Problems Linger , earlier post
- SLS Software Problems Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- This Is How NASA Covers Up SLS Software Safety Issues (Update), earlier post
- MSFC To Safety Contractor: Just Ignore Those SLS Software Issues, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues Continue at MSFC, earlier post
- SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update), earlier post
- Previous SLS postings

80-billion-yen budget request in the works for lunar probe, Ashai Shimbun

"The science and technology ministry's budget request for the next fiscal year will include an ask for some 80 billion yen ($760 million) to develop key equipment for a U.S.-led, manned lunar exploration mission. The ministry, which also oversees sports, culture and education, is aiming to accelerate the development of a new unmanned supply spacecraft, a life-support machine and other related equipment to help enable Japanese astronauts to land on the moon."

Joint Statement Of Intention In The Artemis Program By Italy and The United States, ASI

"Italy and the United States are interested in exploring potential Italian contributions to the Artemis Program, including but not limited to: the provision of crew habitation capabilities on the surface of the Moon and associated technologies to enable short-duration stays for crews on the Moon; the conduct of lunar surface science experiments and investigations; and the provision of telecommunication services through surface assets and lunar orbital constellations."

Keith's note: There are some who'd say that this large investment - with real money - by Japan (and likely Italy) will help make the Artemis program more stable and able to withstand attempts by the U.S. Congress or a future administration to cancel or delay it. They could be right. Yet back in the 1990s, despite billions in sunk investments by the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Canada, the U.S. Congress came within one vote of cancelling the space station while the White House also toyed with turning it off too. Just sayin'.

Keith's note: Last week Jim Bridenstine suggested that landing at the south pole of the Moon might not be in the cards for Artemis III. A few days later HEOMD AA Kathy Lueders did not give a clear answer when asked. The obvious questions will be "Will Artemis III land at the lunar south Pole? Will the Artemis III mission land before the end of 2024? When will the SLS Green Run Test happen?"

Oh yes there's a NASA hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday: "Hearing to conduct oversight of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's budget and activities"

NASA Publishes Artemis Plan to Land First Woman, Next Man on Moon in 2024, NASA

"Following a series of critical contract awards and hardware milestones, NASA has shared an update on its Artemis program, including the latest Phase 1 plans to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024."

Keith's update: The update issued today by NASA makes no mention of the Artemis III landing site. The press release that announced the report makes no mention of the lunar south pole all together. But Jim Bridenstine was rather blunt today saying that Artemis III will will land at the lunar south pole. Full stop. Apparently someone tweeted something about something from the LEAG meeting last week and someone tweeted something else and ...

I asked a question that went roughly like this: "When Gateway was first announced lunar landings were still planned for 2028. Then last year things got moved up by 4 years to 2024. Yet after more than a year NASA is still not exactly sure what Gateway will or will not do or when these things will happen - especially with regard to the first human landing mission. "Sustainable" means different things to different people - to some it is funding to others it is engineering. The House seems to think it means funding. The more you delay Gateway, the more people are going to question why you even need it. When will you know exactly how Artemis III will be conducted?"

I got some meandering responses from Jim Bridenstine and Kathy Lueders which can be distilled down to "since NASA has chosen the private sector to do the whole 2024 lunar landing system thing NASA does not actually know how their astronauts will land on the Moon. Good? Bad? We'll soon see."

The House only gave NASA $600 million toward the Human Landing System. NASA needs $3.2 billion. Bridenstine is hopeful that there will be a CR (continuing resolution) soon followed by an omnibus appropriations bill either at the end of this year or in March 2021 and that he hopes/expects that the full $3.2 billion for the HLS will be in there. While ever the optimist, he also said "if Congress keeps delaying the funding we will go the the Moon at the earliest possible opportunity."

Where Will Artemis III Land?

Is Artemis Starting To Fade?

Keith's note: Are we seeing an indication that the expansive, fast-paced goals NASA has for Artemis are now colliding with reality?

Space Resources are the Key to Safe and Sustainable Lunar Exploration

"Today, we're taking a critical step forward by releasing a solicitation for commercial companies to provide proposals for the collection of space resources. When considering such proposals, we will require that all actions be taken in a transparent fashion, in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, and all of our other international obligations. We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity. The requirements we've outlined are that a company will collect a small amount of Moon "dirt" or rocks from any location on the lunar surface, provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location, and conduct an "in-place" transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the sole property of NASA for our use."

Gerstenmaier warns against ending space station program prematurely, Space News

"We don't want to do an Apollo: a rush to a single objective and then have nothing left," he continued. "We need to build infrastructure, leave pieces behind that the private sector can use, as well as the government, to move forward." Gerstenmaier said he didn't know how long such a transition from the ISS to private facilities would take, but didn't think there was a firm deadline for ending the station. "I don't know that there's a hard date where the station needs to be retired," he said. "I think there will be probably a push to retire the station with the idea that you're going to free up funds for exploration. That's what I described to you as a false choice."

U.S. prosecutors probe ex-NASA official, Boeing over space contract: sources, Reuters

"The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal probe into whether NASA's former head of human spaceflight gave Boeing Co improper guidance during a lucrative lunar-lander contract competition, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday. The Justice Department has sent subpoenas to NASA, Boeing and Doug Loverro, who led the space agency's marquee space travel program until he resigned in May, as part of a grand-jury investigation into the possible violation of federal procurement laws, the sources said. In the probe, opened in June, prosecutors are focusing on communication between Loverro and Boeing space executive Jim Chilton in late January, during a blackout period for the Human Landing System competition, one of the sources said. Representatives for Boeing and Loverro declined to comment. NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

Keith's note: These NASA procurement activities aren't just a few people in a room working late on Friday afternoons. Hundreds are involved - for weeks - including lawyers, FAR experts etc. Lots of spreadsheets and PowerPoint. Something is missing from this story - either that or a whole lotta people at NASA and Boeing screwed up collectively.

Keith's note: The new Netflix series "Away"" premiers on 4 September 2020. "Commander Emma Green leaves behind her husband and daughter to lead an international crew of astronauts on a perilous three-year mission to Mars."

H.R. 7617 Division-by-Division Summary, House Appropriations Committee

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - $22.63 billion, equal to the FY 2020 enacted level. This funding includes continued investments in human space exploration efforts, as well as other investments, including the following:

• $819 million for Aeronautics research, an increase of $35 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and equal to the President's budget request, to continue efforts to improve passenger safety, fuel efficiency, and noise reduction, and to make air travel more environmentally sustainable.

• $126 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, an increase of $6 million above the FY 2020 enacted level, to inspire young people to pursue future careers in science and engineering, and rejecting the Administration's request to eliminate funding for these programs."

Lucas and Babin: Appropriations Bill Fails to Prioritize NASA's Human Exploration Activities

"In particular, we need funding now to move forward on the Human Landing System, but this legislation provides only a fraction of what's needed to do that. As a nation, we need to prioritize human space exploration. This bill is shortsighted, and I hope we can do more to support NASA's critical missions."

Keith's note: "Give everyone something to look up to." Ford? GM? Chrysler? ... Tesla?

America must return to the moon 'as soon as possible', Harrison Schmitt, Politico

"It has been remarkable to see the National Team, including Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, work closely together with NASA. Blending established entities and entrepreneurial space firms is a good prescription for success. The team is aptly named, as it represents our national heritage in lunar exploration, our national pride in science and technology innovation, and the national strength of our commercial space industry."

Keith's note: The sole intent of this op ed is not to sing the praises of America's plans for returning humans to the Moon as the title suggests. Rather, it is to sell the industry partnering of "the National Team" led by Blue Origin. If the op ed really focused on all that NASA is doing for the Human Landing System and Artemis you'd see SpaceX, Dynetics, Maxar, Astrobotic, Boeing, and a bunch of other companies mentioned. But they are not. Indeed the impression the uninformed (Congressional) reader is that the "National Team" mentioned herein is indeed America's official National Team since no one else is mentioned. Oh, and the listed author is a Blue Origin consultant.

The real "National Team" is composed of all of the companies and institutions supporting NASA's Artemis program - not just those who belong to one contractor team or another - or belong to either the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration or the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Caveat Emptor.

Keith's note: Audi is airing this TV commercial again.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program

"We found that NASA's exclusion of more than $17 billion in Orion‐related costs has hindered the overall transparency of the vehicle's complete costs. Both federal law and NASA policy call for a Life Cycle Cost estimate for all major science and space programs costing more than $250 million, and for the Agency Baseline Commitment (ABC) to be based on all formulation and development costs. The Orion Program received approval from the NASA Associate Administrator to deviate from those requirements, resulting in exclusion of $17.5 billion in Orion‐related costs from fiscal year (FY) 2006 to FY 2030 due to the Agency's tailored approach to program management and cost reporting. Although these exclusions have been approved, the tailoring of these cost reporting requirements significantly limits visibility into the total amount spent on development and production efforts.

We also found that Orion has continued to experience cost increases and schedule delays. Since the cost and schedule baseline was set in 2015, the program has experienced over $900 million in cost growth through 2019, a figure expected to rise to at least $1.4 billion through 2023. At the same time, the program's schedule for Artemis I has slipped more than 3 years, while the schedule for Artemis II has slipped 2 years. Additional delays are likely as both Orion and SLS complete development efforts for Artemis I in the next 16 months and prepare for Artemis II. Meanwhile, Orion is proceeding with production of crew capsules for future Artemis missions before completing key development activities, increasing the risk of additional cost growth and schedule delays as issues are discovered late in the development effort, potentially requiring costly rework.

Further, NASA's award fee practices have hindered the program's control of contract costs. Given the Orion Program's significant cost increases and schedule delays, we found that NASA has been overly generous with award fees provided to Lockheed. From contract inception in 2006 through January 2020, Lockheed received $740.9 million in award fees. We attribute these overly generous award fees to the subjective nature of award fee evaluations coupled with nebulous and dated criteria used by the program. The result, for both the Orion Program and frequently other NASA programs, is that adjectival ratings such as "Excellent" given to the contractor often do not accurately reflect performance shortfalls. At a minimum, we question $27.8 million in fees awarded to Lockheed from September 2006 to April 2015. In addition, we found the continued use of the "Award Fee for End-Item Contracts" clause can serve as a disincentive to contractor performance because of the second opportunity to collect unearned fees once the end-item (in this case, the Orion capsule) is delivered."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program (2016)

"Over its life, the Orion Program has experienced funding instability, both in terms of overall budget amounts and the erratic timing of receipt of those funds. In past reports, we noted that the most effective budget profile for large and complex space system development programs like Orion is steady funding in the early stages and increased funding during the middle stages of development. In contrast, the Orion Program's budget profile through at least 2018 was nearly flat and Program officials acknowledged that this funding trajectory increased the risk that costly design changes may be needed in later stages of development when NASA integrates Orion with the SLS and GSDO. ... We also found prime contractor Lockheed Martin is expending its management reserves at a higher rate than both the Program and the company expected and that, if continued, would deplete its reserve account almost a year before the planned launch of EM-1. Moreover, we found NASA is not monitoring the impact of this possibility on the Orion Program.""

- Lockheed Martin's Bad Orion Marketing Hype, earlier post
- Lockheed Martin's Flawed Comparison Between Orion and Dragon, earlier post
- NASA Orion Buying Spree Makes Texas Happy Again, earlier post

U.S. Air Force cadets study idea of Space Force bases on the Moon, Science

"Featuring weekly speakers and formalized research projects the students hope to turn into peer-reviewed papers, the group aims to game out the policies and philosophies that could guide military space activity when they are old enough to be in charge. In particular, these young cadets are interested in whether the Space Force might someday have a military presence on the Moon, and how it might work with civilians. That activity could put the Space Force in conflict with scientists, who typically view the cosmos as a peaceful place for inquiry. But part of the club's mission is speculating about that interplay--between the military and civilian scientists, civil space agencies, and private companies. Cadet J. P. Byrne, who will graduate in 2021, is the group's current president. He chatted with ScienceInsider about the institute's work."

Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2021 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill

Full Bill

"That the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall use the Space Launch System, if available, as the launch vehicles for the Jupiter Europa missions, plan for an orbiter launch no later than 2025 and a lander launch no later than 2027, and include in the fiscal year 2022 budget the 5-year funding profile necessary to achieve these goals."

"Provided, That not less than $1,400,500,000 shall be for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: Provided further, That not less than $2,600,000,000 shall be for the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle, which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 metric tons and which shall have core elements and an Exploration Upper Stage developed simultaneously to be used to the maximum extent practicable, including for Earth to Moon missions and Moon landings: Provided further, That of the amounts provided for SLS, not less than $400,000,000 shall be for SLS Block 1B development including the Exploration Upper Stage and associated systems including related facilitization: Provided further, That $459,700,000 shall be for Exploration Ground Systems including infrastructure in support of SLS Block 1B missions: Provided further, That the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall provide to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate, concurrent with the annual budget submission, a 5-year budget profile for an inte11 grated system that includes the SLS, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and associated ground systems that will ensure a crewed launch as early as possible, as well as a system-based funding profile for a sustained launch cadence that contemplates the use of an SLS Block 1B cargo variant and associated ground systems: Provided further, That $1,557,400,000 shall be for exploration research and development."

Keith's note: The $22.63 billion requested for NASA in FY 2021 is the same as it was for FY 2020. However the request for FY 2021 was for $25.2 billion - so thats $2.5 billion that is missing. Also, $1.57 billion is set aside for exploration research and development - but $4.72 billion was requested. How NASA is supposed to do the accelerated Artemis program such that they land humans on the Moon by 2024 is hard to fathom. Maybe the Senate will be more generous. As for the Europa missions on SLS - planing orbital mechanics to meet political direction using a Congressionally-designed rocket that has not yet flown is always a bad idea. But Congress still does it anyway. Meanwhile Jim Bridenstine is putting on a brave face. But this is an election year - one marked by racial, societal, and political strife amidst a pandemic that is increasingly out of control. So who knows.

NASA Updates Date, Time for Media Teleconference with Administrator, New Head of Human Spaceflight

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate."

Keith's note: I asked Kathy Lueders: "I have a simple yes/no question. Given delays due to COVID-19 and chronic cost overruns and launch date slips will NASA be able to land people on the Moon by December 31, 2024? yes or no?" she replied "I don't have a crystal ball. ... I wish I knew the answer. It would make my job a lot easier. We're going to try. ... You need to start. One step at a time, right? If you say I can't get there, well, you're not going to get there. ... If things come up along the way where technically it takes us longer ... we'll go figure it out, but right now the team is trying. It is tough." Jim Bridenstine added "asking a yes/no question is the wrong approach. If you ask me I will answer "yes" and we are working at this every day."

Keith's 16 June update: As we first reported last night ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman is leaving NASA. Additional NASA sources have confirmed that he has announced his retirement effective 26 June, This departure is quite a surprise to people at NASA.

NASA Updates Date, Time for Media Teleconference with Administrator, New Head of Human Spaceflight

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate."

NASA Names Joel Montalbano As Acting International Space Station Program Manager

"Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as acting manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment is effective Friday, June 26, the date Kirk Shireman, who has been in the position since 2015, is retiring from the agency to take a position in private industry."

Kathy Lueders Selected to Lead NASA's Human Spaceflight Office

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Friday selected Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders to be the agency's next associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. Since 2014, Lueders has directed NASA's efforts to send astronauts to space on private spacecraft, which culminated in the successful launch of Demo-2 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30."

Keith's note: So much for the Mark Geyer stories I was being fed. I guess he finally said "no" enough times ;-)

Pace, Bowersox Worry About Artemis Funding, Space Policy Online

"The National Space Council's Scott Pace and NASA's Ken Bowersox both expressed concern about getting the money needed to execute the Artemis program today. Pace thinks that even if Congress approves the 12 percent increase for NASA this year, the agency's budget will grow only at the rate of inflation thereafter. Bowersox said although Congress has given NASA a lot of money already, he senses they are not yet convinced of the need to get back to the Moon by 2024. Both spoke to a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine."

S. 2800, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2019 - As ordered reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on November 13, 2019, CBO

"The bill would
• Authorize appropriations totaling $22.8 billion in 2020 for activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and would provide direction on those activities
• Extend operation of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030
• Extend NASA's authority to enter into enhanced-use lease (EUL) agreements
• Permit NASA to increase voluntary separation incentive payments from $25,000 to $40,000

Estimated budgetary effects would primarily stem from
• Extending operations of the ISS
• Spending of the authorized appropriations
• Potential use of third-party financing to construct and renovate facilities for energy production, launch, and other specialized uses under EUL agreements

Areas of significant uncertainty include
• Estimating the value of investments and amount of government use of facilities constructed by third parties under EUL agreements."

Keith's note: Given the pandemic-induced economic crisis and what will be needed to dig out of it, the probability that there will be adequate funds for a sprint program to land on the Moon by 2024, is rapidly evaporating. Add in chronic delays and cost overruns for the SLS/Orion, chaotic management continuity at HEOMD, Congressional doubts, and a presidential election with an inevitable re-evaluation of space goals and possibly an acting Administrator, and the chance that this will happen at all is minimal. Even if this Administration gets a second term NASA has not done what is necessary to pull this off.

Look at what the Congressional Budget Office put into their analysis. What happens if NASA does not get funding at the $22 billion level in the next few years? They will either have to cut or cancel things - or delay things which simply ends up costing more in the end. And oh yes, there's a lot of old stuff at NASA that is falling apart and new facilities that need to be built. The only possible hope NASA can cling to is a huge infrastructure/recovery/stimulus package as we emerge from our current troubles that would enhance government spending. But hope is not the best basis upon which to plan a high speed return to the Moon.

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef (earlier post)

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory. In 2010 NASA was instrumental in rescuing 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped in the San José copper mine. The mine is located near Copiapó, Chile. Parnal Observatory, where the VLT is located is 411 Km north of Copiapó a town with a population of 200,000. La Serena, the town where this photo was taken, is located 349 km south of Copiapó and also has a population of over 200,000. These locations are all connected by the same road (Route 5). I would have to assume that NASA remains a very popular entity in the region after the mine rescue - popular enough that its logo is something that children want to wear."

Keith's note: I have posted a link to this story many times. It involves a boy in Chile wearing a NASA logo t-shirt. Check out the tweet below. Apparently there are others in Chile who follow what NASA and SpaceX - have been doing lately. Yet another example of NASA's global reach. Oddly, NASA never talks about this global reach except to say it is big and broke records (sound familiar?). I have asked NASA for some detailed statistics about their reach during Demo-2. I got a few numbers about YouTube. Nothing about Internet reach in terms of country statistics, Twitter impressions, etc. You know - the sort of things that can show just how truly global NASA's reach is - with real numbers. But it is more than numbers. It is also about action. Why not retweet this tweet from Chile? It is non-controversial and inspirational. But NASA doesn't do that sort of thing. NASA has a vast, and mostly unappreciated global reach - a reach NASA itself simply does not understand or know how to fully utilize.

See "The True Extent Of NASA's Reach During The Demo-2 Launch"

NASA investigating former official's contacts with Boeing on lunar contracts, Fox News

"NASA's inspector general is investigating an allegation that a high-ranking NASA official earlier this year improperly guided Boeing Co. regarding an agency competition for lucrative lunar-lander contracts, according to people familiar with the details The probe, according to these people, focuses on communications Boeing officials had with the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's human-exploration office, Doug Loverro, before he resigned in May. The inspector general's staff, these people said, is looking into an allegation that Mr. Loverro improperly provided guidance that could have offered the Chicago aerospace giant unusual insight into aspects of the competition. Boeing ultimately was eliminated in the competition for technical and cost reasons unrelated to the communications with Mr. Loverro, according to these people. The outcome was viewed as a blow for Boeing, long formidable in U.S. space exploration efforts."

Keith's note: Along with the now silenced "Make Space Great Again" political campaign advertisement that was yanked within hours was another space-related PR effort - but the U.S. State Department. The State Department seems to have had a social media campaign of sorts to promote the @SpaceX DEMO2 mission around the world via the #LaunchAmerica hash tag. I guess this is supposed to be soft power except mostly it says "Hey - America did this". Sometimes they put the tweet out in the target country's official language. Often times its only in English. Some times they included videos that are narrated - and captioned - in English such as the one aimed at Colombia (the point being ...?). Curiously, the tweet aimed at Ukraine is captioned in Ukrainian.

In 2018 Ukraine had 41.98 million people. Colombia had 49.65 million. Given their similar size, you'd think that they would both warrant a local translation/captioning of the video. But wait: there are only 35 million Ukrainian speakers worldwide vs 572 million spanish speakers (53 million in the U.S.). 20 counties count Spanish as an official language. You could certainly create many more tailored tweets from U.S. embassies to each of these 20 countries with one video translation and reach many more people than the one-off Ukrainian translation. Just sayin'

NASA's accomplishments have always led the rest of world and continue to be a raw source of immense soft power. Now, if only America knew how to ask everyone else to work with them in a calm, collaborative fashion, and not just wave our flag at them on Twitter. Again, just sayin'

NASA human spaceflight directorate reorganization on hold, Space News

"During a June 1 webinar by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said that a reorganization of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate will be delayed until after the agency hires a successor to Doug Loverro, who left the agency May 19."

Keith's 4 June update: Bringing Mark Geyer back to NASA HQ to run HEOMD will make many people in the organization comfortable since there'd be a certain Gerstenmaier-like familiarity. But Jim Bridenstine originally replaced Bill Gerstenmaier with a new face and approach so as to refocus HEOMD to make the Artemis 2024 lunar landing feasible. Now a lot of that will be dialed back to the way it was before Doug Loverro took over. Between pandemic delays, election year uncertainties, and chronic SLS/Orion delays and cost overruns, Mark Geyer certainly has an immense challenge ahead of him.

Keith's 2 June note: When former HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier was fired last summer it took NASA 6 months to replace him. During that time major aspects of Artemis and SLS were put on hold or dialed back until a replacement could be found. The new AA Doug Loverro showed up in early 2020 and did what he was told to do and the system bounced him as a result. Now NASA is searching for a replacement for Loverro who, himself, was a replacement. And once again NASA is putting things on hold - as if the pandemic-caused delays were not bad enough.

If NASA follows precedent it will take quite some time to replace Loverro. The reorganization of HEOMD was planned based on a top to bottom assessment of HEOMD - by HEOMD. One would think that the reorganization was independent of one person's opinion and that it had broad organizational buy-in. Guess not.

Now NASA will put the whole Artemis thing on hold again for months until someone takes the job and then stay on hold for a few more months more while the new person gets up to speed and takes ownership of HEOMD. There is simply no way NASA will ever meet the Moon landing deadlines it has been given if every decision has the fate/opinion of one NASA employee as a potential single point of failure. If NASA cannot come up with a fault tolerant way to manage its people on Earth then the whole Moon thing is not going to happen as planned. Just sayin'.

Russia will not accept attempts to privatize the Moon, says Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"Attempts to privatize the Moon run counter to international law, CEO of Russia's Roscosmos State Space Agency Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station on Monday. "We will not, in any case, accept any attempts to privatize the Moon. It is illegal, it runs counter to international law," Rogozin pointed out. The Roscosmos CEO emphasized that Russia would begin the implementation of a lunar program in 2021 by launching the Luna-25 spacecraft to the Moon. Roscosmos intends to launch the Luna-26 spacecraft in 2024. After that, the Luna-27 lander will be sent to the Moon to dig up regolith and carry out research on the lunar surface."

- What Are The Artemis Accords And Why Do We Need Them?, earlier post

Keith's note: I am currently writing a piece now about the so-called "Artemis Generation", a phrase coined by NASA. Will they rise above things that now confront them or succumb to them? I am not sure. My Dad grew up during The Great Depression and then endured World War II - nearly being killed by a V-2 impact in London. From the sacrifice of the so-called "Greatest Generation" sprang the forces that propelled America to the Moon and later to send spacecraft into interstellar space on converted ICBMs - rockets directly derived from the missile that almost prevented me from existing. (Image: My Dad's dog tag and a spent round fired at his funeral).

The Artemis Generation faces many things - school shootings, crushing debt, the pandemic, and a government that seems to have failed them. Its almost as if they have to deal with The Great Depression and post-World War II life all at once - at high speed. My generation grew up inspired by humanity's first visits to the Moon as they unfolded before our young, impressionable eyes. World War II was as close to us then as 9/11 is now. Will the Artemis Generation be similarly inspired? If NASA wants to have a similar Apollo-like impact with the Artemis Generation they need to double down and work even harder than they are.

Meanwhile, on this Memorial Day I thought I'd repost an article I wrote about my father's brush with death from a weapon that fell upon him from space. I still stand in awe of what his generation went through and what they did after that was over.

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

Keith's note: NASA got more from this guy in 6 months than some people contribute in an entire career.

What Are The Artemis Accords And Why Do We Need Them?, SpaceRef

"NASA has formally announced the "Artemis Accords" - a series of principles and processes whereby America and other countries would agree to a common set of principles covering how the Moon is to be explored and its resources utilized. But what are these accords and why do we need them? Given the renewed and expanded interest by many nations to explore the Moon this makes sense. There are two main issues involved here. One has to do with the common sense approaches that need to be made among multiple parties to ensure that things go smoothly. The other is the legalistic and diplomatic tedium that goes into international agreements."

- Artemis Accords website
- Artemis Accords briefing charts

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine recently made some public comments about his interest in having NASA organize its efforts and interactions along the lines of DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic) a buzz word that describes a strategic use of various forms of national power and influence. Often times you see the term "soft power" weaved into this discussion i.e. how can a nation use its capabilities in a peaceful, educational/humanitarian nature to project power while actually helping others.

I saw this interesting Tweet by @usembassydhaka - the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka (Bangladesh) about a partnership that NASA has with the EMK Center in Bangladesh. It has become obvious to me and a lot of people that NASA has an immense global brand awareness - and it is apparently almost perfectly good. I made mention of this in "Understanding NASA's Global Reach" where the NASA-assisted rescue of Chilean miners seems to have left a lingering positive glow and also in "NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated" which features a tweet about a group of students participating in NASA International Space Apps challenge in Kosovo. Now that NASA is sponsoring a special COVID-19 Space Apps Challenge NASA's visibility is certain to grow further.

This joint effort in Bangladesh is interesting. I have a strong interest in the region after the time I spent at Everest in Nepal in 2009 and I have supported multiple education projects in Nepal since my visit. So I sent NASA PAO and others at NASA HQ this inquiry. Let's see how they respond.

Keith's update: The folks at NASA PAO did a lot of sleuthing - globally - to answer my questions - thanks! As you can see this is not necessarily a NASA activity per se but it does show that the NNASA brand has substantial global impact such that it is seen as a de facto gold standard that many people and organizations w=seek to be allied with.

1. Can you tell me who the point of contact for this activity is at NASA?
This activity was initiated by the EMK Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh (see below), and NASA is not directly involved.

2. Who initiated this effort - NASA? The State Department? The Embassy in Bangladesh? Organizations in Bangladesh? Are there other NGOs or agencies involved?
This activity was initiated by staff at the Edward M. Kennedy (EMK) Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The EMK Center is run by the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka through its American Center in the city, in partnership with the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The State Department informs us that EMK Center staff received information about the NASA at Home program from the State Department's regional public engagement specialists in India, as part of programming ideas during COVID-19 lockdown. EMK Center staff came up with the idea to use the NASA STEM@Home resources as a hook to engage virtually with Bangladeshi students (primarily classes 6-13) and EMK MakerLab program participants, as well as the broader public stuck at home due to the Government of Bangladesh's COVID-19 lockdown and to encourage them to participate in STEM activities. To incentivize participation in the program, EMK is offering prizes to participating students and a certification of participation for all participants. The top 5-10 projects will be displayed at EMK once it reopens to the public again and shared via EMK social media platforms at the end of the contest period. After the program started, "কিশোর বাতায়ন (Konnect), a Government of Bangladesh digital educational platform that works with adolescent and youth, joined EMK as a partner.

3. Is this a formal or ad hoc agreement? Is there a signed Space Act Agreement or MOU or cooperative agreement?
No agreements are required for this type of use of NASA-produced educational materials.

4. Is this part of a larger program to engage people around the world? NASA's online educational materials are freely available to all users.
NASA coordinates with the State Department to inform U.S. missions overseas about its digital content, and to respond to requests from individual posts on a case-by-case basis.

5. Is there any linkage between this effort and the NASA Space Apps Challenge?
This activity is not related to any of the Space Apps programming in Bangladesh.

6. Does NASA consider this effort part of its interest in reaching the "Artemis Generation"?
The Artemis Generation are today's students - regardless of location - who will take us farther into space than ever before. The NASA STEM content and activities found on the NASA@Home site is intended to inspire these students in science, technology, engineering and math and to be a part of the future STEM workforce.

7. The original tweet had a 30 April 2020 deadline and the Embassy tweet says that it is 31 May 2020. Is this effort still underway? Where will the results of this activity be posted publicly?
Initially, the EMK Center proposed April 30, 2020, as the deadline for submission of projects, but as the shutdown of the schools was extended gradually, it decided to extend the deadline to May 31, 2020, to reach the maximum number of students. As noted above, in addition to offering prizes to the top 5-10 projects, the best projects will be posted on EMK Center social media platforms and displayed at the EMK Center once it reopens to the public.

Keith's note: I tweeted this and it went viral due to a retweet by Trump critic Rick Wilson. Oops.

Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

"Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law."

Trump administration drafting 'Artemis Accords' pact for moon mining, Reuters

"The Artemis Accords are part of the Trump administration's plan to forgo the treaty process at the United Nations and instead reach agreement with "like-minded nations," partly because a treaty process would take too long and working with non-spacefaring states would be unproductive, a senior administration official told Reuters. As countries increasingly treat space as a new military domain, the U.S.-led agreement is also emblematic of NASA's growing role as a tool of American diplomacy and is expected to stoke controversy among Washington's space rivals such as China."

Keith's note: I know that you need to start somewhere. But cutting corners on the ususal process and expecting that major space powers like Russia and China will not sign sounds like this thing will be lopsided at the onset. And everyone is going ahead with their existing Moon plans and will claim areas as their own zones. How is this going to have any real impact unless everyone who is going to be doing things on the Moon agrees in advance? Just wondering.

Keith's note: Oddly Space Force officials tell recruits that their jobs will be on Earth but then their OR people put out a video that suggests that there are offworld jobs available to recruit people. Confusing? Misleading?

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Statements on Artemis Human Lander Systems Contract Awards, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"Unfortunately, more than a year after their announcement to accelerate the Artemis program, NASA has yet to provide Congress a transparent architecture and technical and cost assessment, despite our repeated requests. The American taxpayer deserves to know their money is being spent wisely, especially if they are being asked to invest billions of taxpayer dollars in a private lunar landing system. Our nation should dream boldly and pursue aspirational goals but we have to do so thoughtfully and intentionally. I look forward to working with NASA in good faith to steer our nation's space program in a direction that allows our country to achieve inspiring goals and explore space in a responsible and measured way."

Key House Democrats "DIsappointed" With HLS Awards, Space Policy Online

"However, if Johnson and Horn's views are shared by appropriators, it could signal trouble for NASA getting the funding increase it needs not just this year, but for the next several years, to execute Artemis. The FY2021 budget request alone is a 12 percent increase over current spending. Bridenstine expressed optimism yesterday that NASA's budget will not be impacted by the trillions being spent on COVID-19 relief. Noting how small NASA's budget is compared to the rest of government spending, less than half a percent, he said "We're not going to be the solution to balancing the budget. ... I don't think we're in any jeopardy."

- NASA Picks Human Lander System Developers

"With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program."

- Does NASA Know The Real Cost Of Sending Humans To The Moon?, Earlier post
- NASA Releases Its Artemis "Plan" - 5 Months Late, Earlier post
- GAO Wants To Remind You That Artemis Is Lacking Detail, Earlier post
- NASA Authorization Bill Markup, Earlier post

Keith's note: There has been a lot of discussion of late about risk and safety - COVID-19, launching people on commercial vehicles, etc. There has also been a lot of talk about going back to the Moon too - to pick up the exploration of that world from where we left off half a century ago. The PR pictures are pretty and the videos are inspiring. But the exploits of Apollo still have an alternate reality to them - as if those people were somehow different than we are. In the end, human exploration is inherently risky. It was then. It is now. It will be in the future. And the people who set off on these expeditions to other worlds need to be prepared for things you can't easily prepare for. In Pat Rawlings iconic painting this injured lunar explorer just happened to have an ambulance nearby with two EMTs. That is not usually the case on expeditions.

Things can happen quickly on an expedition to remote, hazardous locations - even when you think you are safe. On this date, 1 May 2009 Astronaut Scott Parazynski and I were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Before us lay the massive Khumbu icefall and the shoulder of Mt. Everest. Scott was preparing to climb the mountain. I was there to do education and public outreach. I am a space biologist and Scott is a M.D. so we were also doing a little astrobiology field research on the side for a friend at NASA.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2020/IMG_3935.jpg http://images.spaceref.com/news/2020/IMG_3936.jpg

Click on images to enlarge

We had a commercial sponsor for our spectrophotometer (our tricorder) so we needed to get some promo shots of it for the company to use. I picked the icefall as a good backdrop to use. We were standing 2 km or so from its edge. It was 11:28:25 am local time. I took a series of pictures of Scott with the spectrophotometer. (see images above) Suddenly we heard a loud cracking/roaring noise and turned toward our left to look at the west side of the icefall. Something was happening. I got off one still photo and then switched my camera to video mode. What unfolded was widely described as the largest avalanche ever recorded on Everest. I did not plan for this. It just happened.

Luckily no one was killed. Alas, a week later, while Scott was climbing on the icefall a similar avalanche from the same location happened. I did not know what his status was for half an hour. Scott's climbing partner might have been killed had it not been for some quick thinking by his sherpa. In the middle of the area hit hardest by the avalanche a western climber was pulled out of a crevasse. His sherpa was not so lucky. I just happened to record that too. My footage has been used on multiple TV shows and the feature film "Sherpa." Until 2015 when some more graphic footage of another avalanche made news after a massive earthquake my video had an unfortunate notoriety to it. No more.

In 2009 Scott and I were standing where our outfitter had set up camp amidst the small temporary nomadic village of a thousand people at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall. Everyone thought this to be a safe place since the constant avalanches (you hear smaller ones constantly day and night) never reach this location. At one point Scott and I took some promotional shots for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education (we were both on the board of directors). Again, we did so in front of our tents.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/scot.keith.cliff.jpg

In 2015 as I analyzed where the fatal avalanche came from I was shocked to learn that it was a hanging piece of snow between two peaks that let lose. Had we been in the same location by our tents we'd have stood an excellent chance of being killed. Again - the experts all thought this was a safe location in 2009. Things change. People camp elsewhere now.

Expeditions to other worlds are going to need to be prepared to adapt to dangers like this - both the obvious ones and the unexpected ones. NASA needs to start working on a broader expeditionary mindset wherein the agency - and the public - are taught to better understand the risks as well as the benefits - of human exploration.

You can read more about our Everest adventures at "My Star Trek Episode at Everest".

NASA Names Companies to Develop Human Landers for Artemis Moon Missions, NASA

"The following companies were selected to design and build human landing systems:
-- Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, is developing the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV) - a three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system.
-- Dynetics (a Leidos company) of Huntsville, Alabama, is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System (DHLS) - a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities that will launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system.
-- SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, is developing the Starship - a fully integrated lander that will use the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket."

- Maxar Selected to Support Dynetics in Designing and Building a Lunar Human Landing System for NASA
- NASA Selects Blue Origin National Team to Return Humans to the Moon
- SNC to Lead Crew Module Development for Critical Piece of NASA's Artemis Program
- Dynetics to develop NASA's Artemis Human Lunar Landing System
- CSF Statement on NASA's Selection of Multiple Commercial Human Lander Awardees
- AIAA Statement: NASA selection of Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX for Artemis Lunar Lander Development
- Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Comments on HLS Awards

NASA to Announce Commercial Human Lander Awards for Artemis Moon Missions, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, April 30, to announce the companies selected to develop modern human landing systems (HLS) that will carry the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and develop sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade. Audio of the call will stream online at: https://www.nasa.gov/live."

Rubio, Blumenthal Urge NASA to Expand Partnerships With Private Sector to Support Lunar Exploration Programs

"U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged NASA Administrator James Bridenstine to expand partnerships with the private sector to support the Artemis program and NASA's Human Landing System (HLS) program. In the letter, the senators highlight the importance of continued lunar exploration to support the goal of developing a sustainable presence on the Moon. "Under your leadership, the Artemis program will help our space industry validate human safety protocols, learn to use the Moon's vast resources, and undertake meaningful technology development and demonstration in support of the next giant leap to Mars." the senators wrote. "While the scale of these undertakings is significant, NASA has at its disposal a diverse and growing private, domestic space industry. Indeed, America's commercial space industry is a key enabler of our nation's endeavor to return to the Moon and journey on to Mars".

NASA RFI: Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon released

"NASA is soliciting input to assist the Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration in the Science Mission Directorate in planning the development of investigations on the lunar surface to be delivered by the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program."

HeroX Helps NASA Advance Moon Exploration with Miniaturized Payload Design Competition

"HeroX, the leading crowdsourcing platform that solves global problems, today launched the crowdsourcing competition "Honey I Shrunk the NASA Payload" on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The challenge calls on the global community of solvers to develop miniature payloads that could be sent to the moon in the next several years to fill strategic lunar knowledge gaps."

NASA Awards Contract to Deliver Science, Tech to Moon Ahead of Human Missions

"NASA has selected Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to deliver and operate eight payloads - with nine science and technology instruments - to the Moon's South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024. The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency's Artemis program."

NASA's Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development

"This document covers and responds to the Chairman of the National Space Council's direction to provide a plan for a sustained lunar presence, including the technologies and capabilities to enable the first human mission to Mars. For millennia humanity has looked at the Moon in wonder and awe. As the United States leads the development of a sustained presence on the Moon together with commercial partners and international partners, our presence on the Moon will serve as a constant reminder of the limitless potential of humanity. It will continue to inspire humanity as we seek ever more distant worlds to explore - starting with Mars.

... After Artemis III, the overall plan is to conduct operations on and around the Moon that help prepare us for the mission durations and activities that we will experience during the first human mission to Mars, while also emplacing and building the infrastructure, systems, and robotic missions that can enable a sustained lunar surface presence. To do this, we will develop Artemis Base Camp at the South Pole of the Moon."

... In addition to establishing Artemis Base Camp, another core element of the sustained lunar presence that feeds forward to Mars will be the expansion of habitation and related support systems at the Gateway. This evolution of the Gateway's systems to include large-volume deep space habitation would allow our astronauts to test, initially in lunar orbit, how they will live on their voyage to and from Mars. Gateway can also support our first Mars mission analogs on the lunar surface. For such a mission, we currently envision a four-person crew traveling to the Gateway and living aboard the outpost for a multi-month stay to simulate the outbound trip to Mars, followed by two crew travelling down to and exploring the lunar surface with the habitable mobility platform, while the remaining two crew stay aboard. The four crew are then reunited at the Gateway for another multi-month stay, simulating the return trip to Earth, before landing back home."

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council, 20 August 2019

'And I recommend to the public's attention the public record that you will find that we are setting specific timelines for the Administrator in the next 60 days to designation of an office and submission of a plan for a sustainable lunar surface exploration and the development of crewed missions to Mars."

- NASA Really Really Needs An Artemis Plan - Soon, earlier post
- Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

More Than 12,000 People Apply to Join NASA's Artemis Generation, #BeAnAstronaut, NASA

"More than 12,000 people have applied to join NASA's next class of astronauts, demonstrating strong national interest to take part in America's plans to explore the Moon and take humanity's next giant leap - human missions to Mars. Applications were received from every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. However, the process is just beginning for NASA's Astronaut Selection Board, which will assess the applicants' qualifications and invite the most qualified candidates to the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston for interviews and medical tests before making a final selection. NASA expects to introduce the new astronaut candidates in the summer of 2021."

NASA OIG: NASA's Development of Ground and Flight Application Software for the Artemis Program

"We found the EGS Program has taken appropriate steps to manage GFAS by implementing a flexible software development process and exercising appropriate oversight and risk management. However, we found that challenges from simultaneous hardware and software development efforts resulted in revisions to GFAS and contributed to increased development costs. In addition, NASA and Lockheed Martin--the contractor developing the Orion crew capsule--took 2 years to resolve information technology security issues that delayed the GFAS team from obtaining remote access to critical test equipment at the contractor's laboratory. Overall, as of October 2019 GFAS development has cost $51 million, about $14 million more than originally planned. Although EGS managers expect GFAS to be ready in time to launch Artemis I, it is essential that the Agency incorporate lessons learned from cross-program development, integration, and testing challenges to minimize risks to future software development."

Gateway No Longer Mandatory For 2024 Lunar Landing, Space Policy Online

"The head of NASA's human exploration program said today that the lunar Gateway that has been a linchpin of the Artemis program no longer is a mandatory component of getting astronauts back on the Moon by 2024. NASA has decided to "decouple" getting to the Moon "fast" versus getting there "sustainably" and Gateway is not needed to get there fast. This dramatic turnaround was driven by the need to meet the Trump Administration's deadline to put astronauts on the lunar surface before the end of a second Trump term if he is reelected."

NASA takes Gateway off the critical path for 2024 lunar return, SpaceNews

"We can now tell the international partners] 100% positively it will be there because we've changed that program to a much more what I would call solid, accomplishable schedule," he said. He added there were unspecified changes to the Gateway design to reduce its cost "so I don't get into a struggle" between the cost of the Gateway and human lunar landers, suggesting there were cost overruns with the Gateway. "Frankly, had we not done that simplification, I was going to have to cancel Gateway because I couldn't afford it," he said. "By simplifying it and taking it out of the critical path, I can now keep it on track."

NASA planning document may offer clues to changes in Artemis program, Ars Technica

"For this assessment, about 60 people at the agency and from industry sought to determine the status of the program as it was currently structured. After the analysis, Loverro told staffers at NASA he had "concerns" about whether the existing plan would work. In particular, during internal briefings, Loverro expressed doubts about the remote assembly of elements of the lunar lander at the Gateway. He also wanted NASA engineers to make sure the Orion spacecraft, with crew on board, could dock to the lander without the Gateway. The potential revision of this plan, which may entail the launch of an entire lunar lander on an upgraded version of the SLS rocket, is notable for several reasons. Perhaps most significantly, it would place primary responsibility for NASA's Moon program on the shoulders of Boeing. That company is building the core stage of the SLS rocket, as well as an upgraded upper stage--the Exploration Upper Stage--that would now be required for use by August 2024 on the Block 1B version of the SLS. In fact, it would be required to accelerate development of the beefier SLS rocket."

Let the moon rush begin, op ed, Homer Hickam, Washington Post

"As these efforts get going, however, it's important to avoid the thinking of a half-century ago and look at the moon in a different way. This is, after all, not your grandfather's moon. After the Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s and '70s, a series of robotic missions discovered that Luna was a lot more interesting than many had previously thought. It has abundant water and oxygen, as well as helium, platinum, thorium, rare earth metals and other minerals that may well be worth digging up and transporting back for use in thousands of products."

Keith's note: The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) ran a full page advertisement/op ed by Blue Origin (also owned by Jeff Bezos) in today's Washington Post written in response to a recent editorial about space policy by the Washington Post editorial board.

NASA keeps falling victim to presidential whims, Washington Post (image of full advertisement)

"Mars (of which the Moon is a part)" is either nonsense or exactly what legislators in the House of Representatives seem to have their eye on today: putting humans on the moon only as a jumping-off point to explore the red planet in person. That's different from the plan NASA is envisioning, despite the president's contradictory tweets; the agency looks to Mars in the distant future but treats the moon as an end in itself -- where it can establish bases on the far side and mine lunar ice, ostensibly for life support and rocket fuel. There's a powerful argument that satisfying the human drive to know doesn't actually require humans. Robots can do lots of exploring for lots less money than it costs to put people on (or float people above) celestial bodies; projects from the Curiosity rover to the Cassini spacecraft and beyond have taught us so. There's also an argument that the private companies increasingly interested in low-orbit adventuring should be entrusted with as much as they're able to carry out, to save NASA money and to ensure that exploratory work continues even as the whims of politicians shift. (Disclosure: One of those companies is owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Post.) These shifting whims are the greatest threat to a space program constantly afflicted by whiplash. Preferable as a greater emphasis on robotics might be, leaders are unlikely to stop insisting on going places because we can. These long-term goals are most likely to be achieved if they're guided by thoughtful science and professional planning, rather than the allure of a potential geopolitical coup or the grievances of constituent contractors. The longer the politicians argue back and forth about the moon vs. Mars, the less likely we are to go to either one."

To which Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith responds:

"Recently, the Washington Post editorial board cited presidential whim as being at the heart of today's efforts to push for greater United States leadership and focus in space. That view is representative of uniformed critiques that come from many corners and have helped stymie well-intentioned prior efforts to move our nation forward into space. It fails to recognize the massive shifts in the space industry that allow us to maje greater strides and the emerging threats that require us to re-double our efforts. Last year, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing on the Moon reminded us of the great pioneering capabilities and innovation that the U.S. has always demonstrated. But the first steps of Apollo were just that - the first steps in an unprecedented journey that is just beginning. ... All the forces - economic, political, technological, cultural - are in place for this transformation and we are now participating in an historic moment. This inevitable expansion will not be stopped by those that waiver and merely critique, but will be forged by those across government and industry who are un apologetic in their vision, and who are unafraid to build and to dream."

Keith's note: This is interesting. GAO usually just issues its reports and that's that. However, they are now overtly mentioning the recently released FY 2021 budget and are directing people to a report "NASA Lunar Programs: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Analyses and Plans for Moon Landing" that says:

"In March 2019, the White House directed NASA to accelerate its plans to return humans to the moon by 2024--4 years earlier than NASA had planned. To meet this new goal, NASA made some changes to its approach. But it is still pursuing an array of complex efforts, including a small platform in lunar orbit called the Gateway, where crew could transit to and from the moon. Some have questioned the path NASA is taking and NASA has not fully explained how it arrived at its plans. So we that NASA document its rationale for these decisions. We also recommended that NASA develop an official cost estimate for the 2024 lunar landing mission."
Not very subtle - especially for the GAO. If the GAO is publicly reminding people that NASA needs to provide more details then it is a sure thing that Congress will be asking for the same thing - since the report that GAO is referring to was delivered to Congress on 19 December 2019 in response to a request from the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

Trump budget cuts funding for health, science, environment agencies, Washington Post

"President Trump once again is asking Congress to make major cuts to the budgets of science and health agencies while favoring research deemed essential to national security. The 2021 budget request delivered Monday to Congress includes a nearly 10 percent cut to Health and Human Services and a 26 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency. It asks for increases in funding for research on quantum computing and artificial intelligence, areas in which the United States competes with China. Trump also wants to grant NASA a multibillion-dollar boost to help the space agency put astronauts back on the moon. Trump budgets have repeatedly targeted agencies and programs that deal with science, health and the environment, but if tradition holds, the requested cuts have little chance of winning approval from the House of Representatives, which has the power of the purse and a Democratic majority."

Keith's note: Learning that the White House has singled NASA out for a substantial budget increase is always welcome news for the space community since it highlights the fact that space is important and space people think that space is important. Add in strong mention in the State of The Union address and at other high visibility events, a push for Space Force, and space folks certainly have a right to feel that there is new wind in their sails. One small problem: much of this is temporary. Alas, as has been the case in the past, large cuts in social services, education, science, and infrastructural budgets fall flat when they arrive at Congress. NASA stands out as a target by virtue of its large plus up while everyone else is getting cut back. Soon we'll hear the old saws "why spend money in space when it is needed here on Earth" and "We already did the Moon thing 50 years ago". As inspirational as this 12% increase is, the chances that it will actually happen are not very encouraging.

Today at the Space Foundation's State of Space event, Rep. Kendra Horn, the lead proponent of the recent NASA Authorization Act that is making its way through Congress said that the 12% proposed increase in NASA's budget is welcome, but that it does not address the $5-6 billion that she says that NASA has told her that they need every year to make the 2024 Artemis lunar landing to happen - and by the way where is NASA's actual plan to do this? When asked about the interest in having actual private sector participation in Artemis as proposed by the White House, Horn said instead that making everyone NASA contractors is better - something her NASA Authorization Act strives to do. Add in the Act's gutting of actual lunar utilization and exploration after the landings begin we'd be facing a Flags and Footprints 2.0 situation. Just as a huge NASA budget increase is going to be hard to sell to Congress against a backdrop of cuts elsewhere, spending any large amount of money on NASA - with or without a big increase - to go back and walk around on the Moon is going to be a hard sell as well when basic support services are on the chopping block.

When asked if she thought Artemis could survive the election and a possible change in the White House Horn replied that her authorization act had bipartisan support - so that was a good sign. We all saw what the Obama Administration did to the Bush Administration's human spaceflight program plan when they took over and what happened to Obama's space efforts when the Trump team took over. Horn referred to a certain amount of "whiplash" as being an integral part of what passes for space policy - and that this back and forth contributes to a lot of the problems we see in what NASA is doing or not doing at any given moment.

Now that I have served up a pile of negativity, lets look on the bright side. There is great interest - globally - in going back to the Moon - with both humans and robots, to do science and exploration, to both further national goals and conduct private sector projects. Oh yea Mars too. Alas, no one is exactly on the same page. Until we have an actual national strategy with goals, objectives, roles, and responsibilities clearly enumerated then this ad hoc, constantly pivoting approach is going to continue to stumble along. It takes more than short presidential directives or tedious, verbose NASA authorization Acts to make that happen. Barking orders and long wish lists chopped up into 4 year long bite size pieces won't work. It never has. We're just kicking the can down the road. Will someone please fix this? Thanks.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2015/canmars.jpgKicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, 2015, earlier post

"And of course none of these Mars missions in the 2030s are in any budget - notional, proposed, or projected - that means anything to anyone actually working at NASA today. So it is hard to blame people who can't give you a straight answer. Just look at what their management has given them to work with - and what the agency has had to work with in terms of guidance from Congress and the White House. Just in the past 10-12 years NASA has veered away from the shuttle towards the Moon, then away from the ISS to Mars and away from the Moon and back to ISS, and now back to Mars (and maybe the Moon) and also some boulder on an asteroid."

Keith's note: In the NASA FY 2021 budget briefing I asked Jim Morhard what the total cost of Artemis would be up to the point of landing people on the Moon. He said $35 billion. Yea that's apparently the additional cost to do Artemis I, II, III - on top of what was already being done. But what was already being done was to send humans to the Moon - you know, like SLS, Orion, ground systems, etc. NASA has been sending humans back to the Moon since 14 January 2004. This guessing game has been an ongoing sport amongst the media for 16 years - trying to find out how much the NASA Moon program will cost. NASA now tries to pretend that Orion and SLS are somehow not part of the Artemis cost since they have been underway for so long that NASA would be doing those things anyway without the whole Artemis thing. Back in the day NASA never included the costs of Shuttle flights in what it cost to build ISS since "we'd be flying them anyway".

Somehow Artemis has become separate from the original "Vision for Space Exploration", "Moon, Mars, and Beyond", Constellation, "Journey To Mars" things - all of which are the overlapping, evolutionary, sequential steps that led to SLS and Orion - right? And all of these efforts cost billions - billions that have vanished from the overall humans to the Moon balance sheet. Of course if you really wanted to be accurate about what this cost you'd need to include Ares 1 and Ares V - since they were once NASA's original "program of record" plan for sending humans to the Moon. But NASA wants everyone to forget all of those billions. Oh yes, then there's the billion they spent on the J-2 testing - and the test stand they never needed - and ... see where I am going?

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NASA to Industry: Send Ideas for Lunar Rovers

"As NASA's Artemis lunar exploration program mounts toward a robust decade of modern science, research, and human exploration at the Moon, the agency is asking American companies to think about how to get around on the lunar surface. NASA issued two separate Requests for Information (RFI) seeking industry approaches for development of robotic mobility systems and human-class lunar rovers. With these RFIs, NASA seeks to foster an emerging American market of lunar transportation capability by engaging the terrestrial vehicle and robotic communities."

Letter From Concerned Scientists Regarding H.R. 5666

"We are writing in response to the draft bill, HR 5666. We strongly agree that bipartisan support for our Nation's space program is absolutely critical for its ongoing success. We also support the provisions for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. We additionally strongly assert that commercial sector involvement is a critical investment in the future of our country. However, we have grave concerns about the text of the draft bill that was released on 24 January 2020."


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