Artemis: December 2019 Archives

Keith's note: Alas there are congressional prohibitions which limit what NASA can do with regard to advertising and promoting itself.

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Keith's note: Boeing's Starliner was launched on time this morning. ULA gave it a perfect flight up to the point where the spacecraft separated. Then things started to go wrong. A planned engine burn did not happen because the spacecraft's clock was wrong and the spacecraft thought that it was somewhere else. Boeing tried to do a burn to fix the situation but a gap between several TDRSS satellites meant that the command would have been sent too late to allow the mission to have a chance to reach ISS. Boeing says that it has no idea why the clock was wrong. The curent orbital path will bring Starliner into a position to do a landing at White Sands in 48 hours. In talking about this problem NASA and Boeing tried to spin the mission as a success even though a prime objective was to dock with the ISS. It is too soon to know if a repeat flight to accomplish the original objectives will be required or if the next flight - with a crew - will be the first time that a Starliner docks with ISS.

One thing that was rather odd today: as soon as things started to go wrong NASA went dark. No TV, no meaningful updates. They said to go visit Boeing's website which had no information. After a couple of hours information started to emerge - not from NASA PAO or Boeing but from Jim Bridenstine's personal Twitter account. Indeed @NASA and @BoeingSpace were mostly mute. It is certainly good that the NASA Administrator has the personal capability and intent to inform the public what is going on. But I have to say that in the 25 years I have been covering NASA I have never seen such a news blackout drop into place for a launch or landing - and that includes the loss of Columbia.

Of course this is Boeing's mission so NASA is somewhat in the back seat in terms of PR. Boeing has none of the cameras on their flight like SpaceX does - just video images of motionless people with headsets staring at monitors. Boeing had to be ordered by Bridenstine to live webcast their recent parachute test (which also had problems that Boeing tried to ignore). And Boeing is lobbying Congress for the SLS Exploration Upper Stage which they claim will be used for Artemis III despite public statements to the contrary by the NASA Administrator. One certainly has to wonder if Boeing is going to exhibit the transparency and honesty one would expect as they continue to receive billions of taxpayer funds. Moreover NASA is asking taxpayers to foot a fast paced effort to return to the Moon. You'd think that someone at Boeing and NASA would get the bright idea that stonewalling and avoiding the media is not the way to garner public support.


GAO: NASA Lunar Programs: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Analyses and Plans for Moon Landing

"NASA conducted studies to inform its lunar plans, but did not fully assess a range of alternatives to these plans. GAO best practices state that analyzing alternatives provides a framework to help ensure that entities consistently and reliably select the alternative that best meets the mission need and justify agency decisions. Given NASA's schedule, conducting this analysis is no longer viable. Instead, NASA intends to create a summary of the studies that informed its lunar plans. However, it has not committed to a completion date. Without a documented rationale, NASA is ill-positioned to effectively communicate its decisions to stakeholders and facilitate a better understanding of its plans."

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

Keith's note: If you read the management response at the end of this report you will see that NASA will "provide a preliminary cost estimate fo the Artemis III mission by the end of calendar year 2020, once the agency makes baseline cost and schedule committments for the Human Landing System currently planned for September 2020)" ... " NASA is developing a document that will summarize the trades and architectural studies which constituted an analysis of architectural alternatives and resulted in the agency's decision to baseline the current lunar architecture and associated programs ... NASA currently pans to complete this document by July 2020". NASA also says that it will develop a "Moon to Mars campaign strategy".

In other words NASA is not going to be in a position to provide much detail in the National Space Council's requested report report (already 60 days overdue) until next summer - a year after it was requested. Nor are they apparently going to be able to tell Congress what it needs to tell them in order to get all of their funds released. Moreover NASA will not have its Artemis cost estimates figured out until late next year - barely three calendar years before they expect to put humans back on the Moon. And NASA still does not have a plan for the whole Mars thing - and can't say when they will.

Exactly two years ago the White House stated "Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations". In March 2019 a frustrated Vice President Pence said "In Space Policy Directive-1, the President directed NASA to create a lunar exploration plan. But as of today, more than 15 months later, we still don't have a plan in place. But Administrator Bridenstine told me, five minutes ago, we now have a plan to return to the moon." Moments later he said "it is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years."

In their response to this GAO report NASA says that they won't even have a plan until late next summer - a year after Pence expressed his frustration about the lack of a plan. in March 2019 Pence gave NASA 5 years to put footprints on the Moon which is now seen as being no later than 31 December 2024. The agency is now telling us (and Pence) that it will have taken them yet another year to come up with a plan. And if the agency stays true to its bad habits the plan will still have major holes in it and no one will be able to stand there with a straight face and say how much it will cost. And then, just as they deliver this plan the election happens and ...

Artemis Wins Only Lukewarm Support In Final NASA FY 2020 Appropriation, Space Policy Online

"More than half the Artemis-related funding may not be obligated until NASA submits a multi-year plan explaining how it intends to execute that program and development of human lunar landers received far less than requested."

Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

"'[Pence] 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."

Keith's note: I asked NASA Administrator Bridenstine about the report requested by the Vice President and the National Space Council last week. The last meeting of the took place on 20 August 2019. Pence's 60 day due date would therefore have been 19 October. It has been 61 days since the due date passed. Bridenstine said that the report has not been delivered and would provide a date when it will delivered.

Current top to bottom Artemis reviews being conducted by new HEOMD AA Doug Loverro are going to take some time. This recent budget action requires an Artemis program plan before all of the funds are released. Vice President Pence and the National Space Council also called for NASA to deliver an Artemis program plan. It is quite obvious by now that the White House and Congress do not have a clear idea as to how NASA is going to place humans on the Moon by 2024. They want to see plans.

Based on 20+ years of watching NASA, the agency has never been good at delivering this sort of plan to Congress and/or the White House. NASA never delivers these plans on time and the plans that are delivered usually punt on many of the important points which spawned the request for the plan in the first place. The Vice President expressed clear frustration with NASA Artemis progress and plans earlier this year. Congress has provided (at best) lukewarm support - along with healthy skepticism as to the why and how of NASA's plans.

NASA needs to hit the ground running in January. There is no more schedule margin to burn. The sooner NASA provides a plan that is realistic - one that is not based on faith-based notional plans - the better the chance they will have to pull this off with the resources needed to make it happen. As for the contractor community: it is time for them to do what they are paid to do - on time - and knock off lobbying Congress for more money to do things that NASA is not asking for.

Boeing, NASA clash over push for Congress to fund new stage for moon rocket, Washington Post

"In an interview, Bridenstine said that while the upper stage will be a great asset for NASA some day, he said "any plan that requires an EUS to be ready by 2024 is a plan that reduces the probability of success. It's just not going to be ready. ... "All of our contractors lobby Congress to achieve what is in their best interest even though it may not be in the best interest of the nation," Bridenstine said in an interview. "This is another example of that. My job as NASA administrator is to make sure we do what's right for the country, and for the taxpayer.""

Farther, Faster: The Next Stage of America's Moon Rocket Takes Shape, Boeing

"As the first Space Launch System (SLS) core stage completes final functional tests ahead of delivery to NASA, Boeing is building the second core stage while accelerating work on a powerful new upper stage that will boost the rocket's performance for the third moon mission and beyond."

Keith's note: This self-serving puffery by Boeing et al obscures the real costs of things and makes it harder to do an apples:apples reality check in the open at a time when no one really trusts any of the costs or schedules associated with Artemis. Indeed bogus claims like this one by Boeing certainly sounds like 'fake news' ;-)

Boeing, NASA clash over push for Congress to fund new stage for moon rocket, Washington Post

"In the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill for next year, lawmakers included language dictating that the agency "continue development" of the upper stage so that it could be ready for the third flight of the SLS, or Artemis III, which would be in time to land humans on the moon by 2024. While there is no House version of the bill, or an appropriation, Boeing's early success at pushing a compliant Congress to mandate the new upper stage for the third flight, instead of a later one, as is now planned, could upend NASA's lunar landing plans and put Boeing in the position of redirecting policy that had been set by NASA's leaders, engineers and scientists who have something other than profits as their priorities. To meet the White House's 2024 lunar landing date, NASA has been trying to build a broad coalition of companies, and has said repeatedly that everyone needs to pull together to help make the moon mission possible by 2024. Listen: Moonrise podcast "When we have one contractor trying to dictate policy that benefits them over the others, it puts the whole program at risk," said one senior NASA official on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly."

Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, earlier post

"For starters NASA is building the SLS. Boeing - along with Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Orbital ATK, and Airbus are building the pieces. One page says it is Boeing's SLS. The other says it is NASA's. Which is it? And yes, Starliner will be sending human crews into space but it is not "the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." It is one of the methods - SpaceX is another method."

- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity Online, earlier post
- NASA OIG SLS Audit: Poor Management By Boeing - Send More Money, earlier post
- Is This Any Way To Go Back To The Moon?, earlier post

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine and Doug Loverro attended the Space News award event in Washington today. I asked them about the Moon/Mars plan that the Vice President and the National Space Council asked NASA to deliver in 60 days. Specifically I asked them if it had been delivered and if so could we see it. Bridenstine replied that it had not been delivered as requested and did not indicate when it would be despite it being rather overdue. See "Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update)"

Prior to my question Doug Loverro announced that he was assembling a Baseline Assessment Team to conduct a review to see where the Artemis/SLS/Orion program is and then decide how to move forward. Specifically Loverro said he did not know what the Artemis 1 launch date would be and that this date would only be set once the entire program had been given a look over.

Loverro went on to say that he did not want to see funding as a "crutch" for not meeting the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024. He noted that he "does "not complain about gravity or radiation" and that funding is just another obstacle to overcome. Bridenstine cautioned that just because the date of Artemis 1 may change that does not necessarily mean that all other launch dates will be delayed.

When asked about the budget situation Bridenstine said he thinks that there is a chance that NASA will get areal appropriation by 20 December. If not, he said that he's talking to his lawyers about ways to "move forward in this politically charged environment". NASA has other lunar-focused efforts underway that have adequate funding and it is possible that some of them could be used to further assist the human lander effort.

With regard to the ISS Bridenstine said "We know that the space station can't last forever. What are we doing now to make sure we do not have a gap in LEO since we are not going to build another ISS.

Inevitably the topic of Space Force came up in light of recent agreements in Congress. Both Bridenstine and Loverro are strong supporters of Space Force and it showed in their comments. At one point, Loverro sought to link what he's doing at NASA with what Space Force will be doing at DoD: "I am going to the Moon in 2024 and I do not want there to be any space pirates out there". He was kidding. I think. But wouldn't you want a few pirates in the mix? Just sayin'.

Keith's 10 Dec update: ; I asked Jim Bridenstine today if this report has been delivered. He replied that it has not.

Findings from the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Preliminary Draft, 4 December 2019

"At the 6th meeting of the National Space Council, the following recommendation was adopted: "Within 60 days, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator will designate an office and submit a plan to the Chairman of the National Space Council for sustainable lunar surface exploration and development, including necessary technologies and capabilities, to enable initial human missions to Mars."

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."

Keith's 6 Dec note: The 6th meeting of the National Space Council took place on 20 August 2019. The 60 day due date would therefore have been 19 October. It has been 47 51 days since the due date passed. Has anyone seen this report? Was it ever delivered? If not, when will it be delivered?

- Dear Colleague Letter From The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group On The Proposed NASA Budget Amendment, earlier post
- The Planetary Science Community Is Split On Artemis/Moon2024, earlier post

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/firstcontacthd1572.jpg

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine spoke at a Space Transportation Association luncheon today in Washington DC. At one point he talked about seeing a "million people living on the Moon in 50 years". So I tweeted that. Soon Twitter lit up with people doing weird math as to how many SLS flights would be required and at what cost. Seriously space fans? SpaceX Starship anyone? Anyway I got a call from Bridenstine a bit later and then tweeted this out:

"OK I just spoke with @JimBridenstine about what he thought he said - and meant to say - but had a slip of the tongue. He meant to say "a million people on the National Mall" celebrating our progress on the Moon 50 years from now. First he referred to huge crowds on the National Mall in DC this past July for Apollo 50 events. He referred to seeing 500,000 people on the Mall here in DC before (we all have) noting "They are usually not happy". The Apollo crowds were happy. Then he started to talk about how we are going to the Moon to stay, and started to imagine what things would be like 50 years hence such that we could "have a million people on the National Mall" celebrating our exploration and utilization of the Moon."

Hmm ... maybe Bridenstine was subconsciously channeling "Star Trek First Contact" (even if he claims to be a SpaceBalls/Star Wars fan):

"Zefram Cochrane: You don't have a moon in the 24th century?

William Riker: Sure we do. Just looks a lot different. There are 50 million people living on the moon in my time. You can see Tycho City, New Berlin... even Lake Armstrong on a day like this."

One other thing Bridenstine said was "the thing about Apollo is that it ended. We want Artemis to continue". Imagine If Apollo never ended 50 years ago and that lunar exploration and development continued and expanded. How many people might be living on the Moon now? Its time to catch up.


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

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