Artemis: August 2019 Archives

I'm a Retired Female Astronaut and I Can't Understand the Obsession With 'Gender Diverse' Space Crews, opinion by Marsha Ivins, Time

"And then there was Saralyn Mark, an M.D. and specialist in gender-based medicine, who spoke about gender bias. Her main point: NASA needs to -- no kidding -- realize there are gender differences because sending "gender diverse" crews to Mars is going to be difficult. At least I think that was her point. It was frankly hard to listen to because enough already! ...

... After Dr. Mark's testimony, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine once again mentioned how inspired his 11-year old daughter would be to see women taking leadership positions in space exploration. Well, Mr. Bridenstine, your agency has had women in leadership roles on and off the planet far longer than you have held your current position. And there have been women astronauts living, working and leading on spacecraft decades longer than your daughter has been alive. Why is she not inspired by that?"

Keith's note: I am not certain Marsha Ivins was listening to the same presentation I heard (see C-SPAN transcript below). For starters Dr. Mark and the other speakers had 3 minutes to make their points. Dr. Mark's commentary about differences in physiological responses to space travel based on gender is very real. Indeed, most of what she discussed had to do with physiology and human factors and how issues still remain to be addressed when planning long-term space missions. But Mark also spoke to the broader issue of diversity and the importance of making sure that when humans go into space that all of us are going.

Alas, Marsha Ivins seems to think that having women on space mission crews and in some leadership positions at NASA means that the whole diversity and gender equality thing is solved. It is not. Even the most cursory review of recent news stories will provide ample evidence of ongoing sexual harassment, pay disparities, imbalances in educational opportunities, and lingering paternalistic management practices within NASA, the aerospace industry, and the various scientific and academic institutions that make up the lager community that explorers space. But Marsha thinks that this was "hard to listen to because enough already!" Really Marsha?

Astronauts are special class of employees at NASA and often occupy a slightly strange position at the agency - one that is often isolated from reality. I know enough astronauts well enough to have seen this with my own eyes. In Ivins' case she saw diversity in space crews and says OK well we have diversity. Check that box. Next task. What about the rest of NASA, Marsha? In reality this most certainly is not the case across the agency and the aerospace industry and the scientific community as a whole.

Jim Bridenstine literally jumped out of the gate on his first day at NASA pledging to support diversity and equality at NASA. Bridenstine goes out of his way almost daily to talk about diversity and his personal commitment to enhancing equality. What does Marsha Ivins do? She crosses the line and dares to question the sincerity with which a father speaks of his own daughter's inspiration and future opportunities.

People look up to astronauts as role models. As such what does it say to people searching for guidance from an astronaut role model to see op eds with the words "I Can't Understand the Obsession With 'Gender Diverse' Space Crews" in the title? Such tone deaf and ill-informed comments do a disservice to everyone who strives to have a role in the exploration of space.

It's time for people like Marsha Ivins to descend from the former astronaut ivory towers and engage with the real world where pushing for more diversity and inclusion is never a bad thing to do. It will always be a work in progress. Contrary to what Ivins saw while wearing her flight suit there are 300 million people out there who live totally different lives - and they pay for this whole party in space. To them diversity and equality in opportunity matter. NASA succeeds best when all people can see themselves reflected in what NASA does.

Note: back in 2007 Marsha Ivins wanted to become a big time TV player in Hollywood. Have a look at her proposed project. At one point she says "I also understand that they should have access to a lot of stuff but do not get free reign to dig around in places we don't want them digging, and again since I have total control over the story line since there are only 2 of us writing it, we can guide the story." Hmmm ... "places we don't want them digging ..."

National Space Council Transcript of comments by Dr. Saralyn Mark 20 August 2019. Source: C-SPAN

Click to read

Community Letter regarding NASA's Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program

"As you are aware, the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program (LDEP) is the continuation of a credible plan to re-engage in lunar surface exploration that has evolved and matured in the past few years, and shown significant progress in the last year. After years of planning next steps toward the Moon, we believe this program is designed for both expediency and cost-effectiveness. That is why we urge its full funding in FY2020, thereby ensuring the continued operation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, and restoring U.S. access to the surface of Earth's nearest neighbor for the first time in almost five decades.

We believe that the LEDP is critical to a vibrant space economy that will bring new and exciting employment opportunities to the next generation of scientists and engineers, as well extend beyond to all sectors of society. The LDEP will give the United States the opportunity to, at long last, systematically prospect for lunar resources, gather comprehensive new samples from many new locations, explore lunar lava tubes, investigate magnetic anomalies, and address a long list of unanswered geophysical questions whose answers have deep implications for advancing our knowledge of the formation of the Solar System and key planetary processes."

Statement by Rep. Brian Babin Regarding NASA's Decision To Award Lunar Lander Program Management to Marshall Space Flight Center

"I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)," said Babin. "Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation's space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed."

Statement by Sen. Ted Cruz Regarding NASA's Decision To Award Lunar Lander Program Management to Marshall Space Flight Center

"As NASA moves forward with their plans I will use every tool at my disposal to ensure the Johnson Space Center remains the crown jewel in human space exploration."

Cruz, Cornyn, Babin Call On NASA to Award Lunar Lander Program to Johnson Space Center

"In response to a news report that NASA will designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to lead the development of the human-classed lunar lander for the Artemis program over the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - which has served as NASA's lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held."

NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program's Human Lunar Lander Development

"NASA recently issued a draft solicitation and requested comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system - a precursor to the final solicitation targeted for release in the coming months. The agency's human lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed - landing on the Moon within five years, while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap - sending astronauts to Mars."

NASA Seeks Input from U.S. Industry on Artemis Lander Development, NASA

"The agency's internal studies point toward a three-stage human landing system, but NASA is also interested in alternative approaches that can accomplish the same long-term goals of global lunar access and a reusable landing system. The three-stage concept includes a transfer element for the journey from the lunar Gateway to low-lunar orbit, a descent element to carry the crew to the surface, and an ascent element to return them to the Gateway. From there, they would board Orion for the 250,000-mile trip back to Earth."

Keith's Update: Great. But if NASA was really interested in alternate approaches then why has it already started to award Gateway contracts based on their own architecture? Why throw money at things that might be changed? Unless the interest in changing things is not real. The most efficient thing for NASA to do would be to set basic requirements, then ask for the ideas - first, evaluate them, pick the best ones, and move ahead, But no. NASA is working backward asking people to fix things it has already started to build. Oh and NASA now has to do everything by 2024 instead of 2028. You'd think that with such an accelerated program that there'd be more of an emphasis on clarity of purpose and efficiency in approach. But this is NASA = Never A Simple Answer.

NASA Administrator to Discuss Human Lander Update for Artemis Program

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, joined by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Scott DesJarlais and Brian Babin, will discuss updates on the agency's plans for landing humans on the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program at 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 16. The remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Alabama space center will manage NASA's lunar lander program, Ars Technica

"As part of the carefully negotiated agreement, Marshall will have responsibility for the overall program as well as two elements of what is planned to be a three-stage lander. The center in northern Alabama will oversee commercial development of the Transfer Element--planned to ferry the lander from the Lunar Gateway down to low-lunar orbit--as well as the Descent Element that will fly down to the surface. ... Meanwhile, the Houston, Texas-based Johnson Space Center will oversee development of the Ascent Element. "

Letter To NASA Administrator Bridenstine From Texas Congressional Delegation Regarding Artemis Lunar Lander

"We are writing to you today in light of a recent report that this Friday, August 16,2019, you plan to announce that the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will manage the development of the lunar lander for the Artemis program and oversee the commercial development of two of the three elements, the Transfer Element and Descent Element, of that lander. According to that same report the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, will oversee the commercial development of only one of three elements, the Ascent Element. This is very troubling if accurate. ... we request that you reconsider this decision, and hold off on any formal announcements until we receive a briefing on this matter that includes the timeline, projected cost, and rational for this decision."

Cruz, Cornyn, Babin Call On NASA to Award Lunar Lander Program to Johnson Space Center

"In response to a news report that NASA will designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to lead the development of the human-classed lunar lander for the Artemis program over the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - which has served as NASA's lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held."

Keith's note: Reader's guide

1. NASA announced a lunar lander update event at MSFC with members of Congress. 2. Ars Technica reported details of what will be in that announcement i.e. shared development between JSC and MSFC
3. NASA Administrator disputed accuracy of Ars Technica Story.
4. Members of Congress saw Ars Technica story and are concerned that Texas may not get the lunar lander program - as they told NASA they wanted.

Keith's Update: Rep. Babin has pulled out of the event.

Statement by Rep. Brian Babin Regarding NASA's Decision To Award Lunar Lander Program Management to Marshall Space Flight Center

"I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)," said Babin. "Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation's space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed."

NASA Administrator to Discuss Human Lander Update for Artemis Program, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, joined by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Scott DesJarlais and Brian Babin, will discuss updates on the agency's plans for landing humans on the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program at 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 16. The remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Alabama space center will manage NASA's lunar lander program, Ars Technica

"As part of the carefully negotiated agreement, Marshall will have responsibility for the overall program as well as two elements of what is planned to be a three-stage lander. The center in northern Alabama will oversee commercial development of the Transfer Element--planned to ferry the lander from the Lunar Gateway down to low-lunar orbit--as well as the Descent Element that will fly down to the surface. ... Meanwhile, the Houston, Texas-based Johnson Space Center will oversee development of the Ascent Element. "

Keith's note: Watch as the MSFC Transfer and Descent elements get too heavy and then squeeze the JSC Ascent element. We've seen this movie before.

With Gerstenmaier gone, decision to fly NASA astronauts may be more contentious, Ars Technica

"SpaceX has already flown an uncrewed demonstration mission of its Dragon spacecraft. Boeing is likely to follow suit this fall with its own Starliner capsule, possibly as early as September. Then each company will have a critical test of its spacecraft's abort system, and then a chance to work through any final technical issues. But once that's done, one or both of the vehicles could be ready to launch astronauts from Florida by early 2020. "Here's where losing Gerstenmaier is going to hurt," said Wayne Hale, former space shuttle program manager and an adviser to NASA. "Bill was recognized by everybody as being technically well grounded and very astute. He was known to listen carefully, and to make his judgments based on good technical reasons."

Keith's note: The new management team selected to run HEOMD is going to have to hit the ground running. Key decisions about SLS will need to be made within weeks of their arrival in their new positions. To be certain the rest of the program is already in place preparing for these events. However, NASA has been directed to suddenly compress a program intended to do something in 2028 into a plan that is going to do that same thing in 2024. Planning for all of this has to go exactly right and hinges upon continued and coordinated political support (funding). And whether that political support will even be there all depends on the run up to - and the outcome of - one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history. This is going to be rather sporty.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Artemis category from August 2019.

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