"Although all three astronauts were posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, it is surprising that we do not have a memorial at Arlington Cemetery to honor the lives of the crew of Apollo 1 as was done for the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews. H.R. 6147 , The Apollo I Memorial Act, would redress that unfortunate omission. As Arlington National Cemetery is where we recognize heroes who have passed in the service of the Nation, it is fitting on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo I accident that we acknowledge these astronauts by building a memorial in their honor. This bill would direct the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to construct at an appropriate place in Arlington National Cemetery, a memorial marker honoring these American heroes."
Recently in Astronauts Category
"It was unanimous ... Everybody there, and particularly the people who had experience over the years, said nobody is ever near the pad when they fuel a booster," [Chair Tom] Stafford said, referring to an earlier briefing the group had about SpaceX's proposed fueling procedure. SpaceX needs NASA approval of its launch system before it can put astronauts into space. In an email to Reuters sent late Monday, SpaceX said its fueling system and launch processes will be re-evaluated pending the results of the accident investigation."
"Dr. Cucinotta developed the astronaut exposure data base of organ doses and cancer risk estimates for all human missions from Mercury to the International Space Station (ISS), and developed risk models for acute, cancer and circulatory disease."
Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.
"We need leadership that will challenge every American to ask, "What's next?" We need leadership that will make America's space program first again. We need leadership that will make America first again. That leader is Donald Trump."
"According to the prepared transcript of the speech, she was supposed to end with "That leader is Donald Trump." Those words even appeared on the teleprompter at the back of the arena floor. But she didn't. Instead, she thanked the crowd and left the stage. At no point in the speech did she mention Trump by name."
The take home message: Eileen Collins is mad because the Space Shuttle program was cancelled (by a republican President - shh!) and that the U.S. has no way to launch people into space (no mention of two private sector systems that will fly next year). She feels that great nations explore and that leadership in space contributes to leadership on Earth. She feels that the U.S. used to have leadership in space, that it currently does not have leadership in space, and that it needs to regain that leadership in space. There was no endorsement of anyone. Between mention in the party platform and prominence given at the RNC convention it will be interesting to see if the Democrats give space equal exposure.
Before Eileen Collins spoke the RNC aired a slick 3:44 long video about space exploration. Initially I thought it was rather odd that Collins had a professionally done, inspirational into - with a narrator and soundtrack tailor-made to introduce her when none of the other speakers had one. Indeed, all of the other speakers (except Cruz) endorsed Trump. Add in the prepared comments with an endorsement released to the media - and loaded into the teleprompter - and I get the impression that an endorsement from Collins was fully expected and that something changed at the very last minute.
Comments are open again. Be nice or I'll turn them off again.
Keith's update: Note the highlighted sentences below. Between the unused endorsement in the official prepared comments and what was said, the Trump campaign clearly had a hand in what she said.
"Eileen Collins, retired astronaut - "Nations that lead on the frontier, lead in the world. We need that visionary leadership again: leadership that will inspire the next generation to have that same passion. We need leadership that will challenge every American to ask, 'What's next?' We need leadership that will make America's space program first again. We need leadership that will make America first again."
According to Donald Trump's official Facebook page: "47 years ago our nation did something that NOBODY thought we could do - we were the first to put a man on the moon. It is time to be number one, again! Believe me, as President, we will once again, Make America First Again! #AmericaFirst #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #RNCinCLE"
NASA Final Rule: 14 CFR Part 1214: Space Flight, Federal Register
Keith's note: These rules apparently only apply to Orion (and SLS). No mention is made as to who is in charge aboard Dragon or Starliner (or other commercial vehicles) when NASA people are on board. That said, the take home message: no fist fights on the bridge.
"Sec. 1214.702 Authority and responsibility of the NASA Commander.
(a) During all flight phases, the NASA Commander shall have the absolute authority to take whatever action is in his/her discretion necessary to:
(1) Enhance order and discipline.
(2) Provide for the safety and well-being of all personnel on board.
(3) Provide for the protection of the spacecraft and payloads. The NASA Commander shall have authority, throughout the mission, to use any reasonable and necessary means, including the use of physical force, to achieve this end.
(b) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to any and all personnel on board the spacecraft including Federal officers and employees and all other persons whether or not they are U.S. nationals.
(c) The authority of the NASA Commander extends to all spaceflight elements, payloads, and activities originating with or defined to be a part of the NASA mission.
(d) The NASA Commander may, when he/she deems such action to be necessary for the safety of the spacecraft and personnel on board, subject any of the personnel on board to such restraint as the circumstances require until such time as delivery of such individual or individuals to the proper authorities is possible.
Sec. 1214.703 Chain of command.
(a) The NASA Commander is a trained NASA astronaut who has been designated to serve as commander on a NASA mission and who shall have the authority described in Sec. 1214.702 of this part. Under normal flight conditions (other than emergencies or when otherwise designated) the NASA Commander is responsible to the Mission Flight Director.
(b) Before each flight, the other flight crewmembers will be designated in the order in which they will assume the authority of the NASA Commander under this subpart in the event that the NASA Commander is not able to carry out his/her duties.
(c) The determinations, if any, that a crewmember in the chain of command is not able to carry out his or her command duties and is, therefore, to be relieved of command, and that another crewmember in the chain of command is to succeed to the authority of the NASA Commander, will be made by the NASA Administrator or his/her designee.
Sec. 1214.704 Violations.
(a) All personnel on board the NASA mission are subject to the authority of the NASA Commander and shall conform to his/her orders and direction as authorized by this subpart.
(b) This subpart is a regulation within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 799, and whoever willfully violates, attempts to violate, or conspires to violate any provision of this subpart or any order or direction issued under this subpart shall be subject to fines and imprisonment, as specified by law."
Keith's note: According to 18 U.S. Code § 799 if you break the NASA rules you "shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both". In other words the fine is (apparently) TBD and the longest you can sit in the brig for punching your captain is a year.
"The hearing will evaluate the impacts of long duration human spaceflight on astronaut health; federal obligations and ethical considerations related to those impacts; as well as potential options for monitoring, diagnosing, and treating retired and management NASA astronauts for conditions resulting from their federal service."
- Subcommittee Discusses Healthcare for Former Astronauts, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Subcommittee Seeks Better Health Care for Former Astronauts, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Prepared Statement: Scott Kelly
- Prepared Statement: Richard Williams
- Prepared Statement: Chris Cassidy
- Prepared Statement: Michael Lopez-Alegria
- Prepared Statement: Jeffrey P. Kahn
Keith's note: It has been interesting to listen to astronauts and medical professionals talk about the various medical aspects of flying in space - especially what Scott Kelly has gone through as he re-adapts to life on Earth after his long flight. There is still so much we do not know. My first job at NASA in 1986 was at the Life Sciences Division at NASA Headquarters working on a large report documenting life science issues in space. A lot of the work had to do with crew health and safety. A lot of good research has been accomplished in the decades that have followed. We now know a lot more about how long duration spaceflight affects human health - but we do not know everything. Nor do we know how to deal with all of the potential risks - yet. As more research is done on the ISS, these issues will be better understood. When NASA sends humans on the #JourneyToMars they're going to need to understand just what the risks are for a trip that could last years before they sign off on the missions. Some risks simply have to be accepted. Yet others can be avoided - easily. Like being pregnant.
There is a movie coming out in August called "The Space Between Us". Based on the movie trailer and the film's website a pregnant astronaut files all the way to Mars and gives birth to a child - on Mars, dying in the process of childbirth. After lots of talk about how the boy could never adapt to Earth, they go ahead and fly him back to Earth anyway. Go figure. I just do not understand how any individual astronaut - or anyone at NASA - could ever allow a pregnant person to do this given how little we know about mammalian reproduction in a spaceflight environment. We do not fly pregnant astronauts now. This movie (based on what has been released) is going to be bioethics nightmare for any space life science expert who will be called upon to comment.
Had they changed the plot such that conception, development and birth all happened on Mars, they'd have been in much less risky territory since the 0.38G gravity on Mars may well be enough for normal development to proceed. Maybe. But having a pregnant woman - probably very close to term - do a multi-G entry and landing after 9 months of zero G gestation is just pushing the limits of ethics and credibility.
"James Donald Halsell Jr., a five-flight veteran who was selected by NASA in 1991 to become an astronaut, was arrested Monday in the deaths of Niomi Deona James, 11, and Jayla Latrice Parler, 13. The family had just picked up the girls from Texas for summer vacation with their father and were almost home when the crash happened. He was booked into the Tuscaloosa County Jail at 11 a.m. Monday and released at 6:30 p.m.after posting $150,000 bond."
"The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame welcomed astronaut inductees Brian Duffy and Scott Parazynski to its ranks during a May 14 ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, in Florida."
"NASA's infamous "Vomit Comet" zero gravity airplane briefly served as a delivery plane for the Navy and a private company owned by an ex astronaut, which some of the plane's crew members who filed formal complaints felt was a misuse of the craft, according to documents obtained by Motherboard. ... In the first instance, NASA officials pressured the crew to transport a giant wooden engine from Houston to Costa Rica as a favor to a former astronaut, according to two of the crew members. Although the mission was successful, NASA seemed to deliberately avoid publicizing the flight. On another occasion that year, the crew was asked to deliver Navy cargo to Greenland even though members of the crew said the trip was unsafe, resulting in a "near fatal crash," according to documents from a NASA Inspector General investigation. Despite conducting an investigation, the agency says it never reviewed a video that was taken of the incident, and never contacted one of the crew members who was deemed the "principal witness."
"Astronaut Piers Sellers tells Fareed he's decided to carry on with his work on climate change after receiving heart-breaking medical news."
Cancer and Climate Change, opinion, NY Times
"As for me, I've no complaints. I'm very grateful for the experiences I've had on this planet. As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God's-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I'm hopeful for its future. And so, I'm going to work tomorrow."
Mark Kelly was born 6 min before Scott. 6 min = 360,000 msecs so Scott needs 36K yr in space to be younger than Mark https://t.co/wUb3YeHWmu— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) March 3, 2016
Because of Einstein's twin paradox, Scott Kelly is now ~10 milliseconds younger than his identical twin Mark pic.twitter.com/gMxBwfMjpZ— New Scientist (@newscientist) March 2, 2016
Association of Space Explorers: "We are very sad to pass along the news that former astronaut Don Williams has passed away. Fair skies and following seas, Cap'n."
"Born February 13, 1942, in Lafayette, Indiana. Died on February 23, 2016. He is survived by his wife and two children. He enjoyed all sports activities and his interests included running and photography."
The Last Man on The Moon Wants You To Go Back (Review), SpaceRef
"Nearly half a century ago we sent people on improbable voyages to another world - because we could. Indeed, for a while, such voyages became routine. Then, suddenly, it was over. We stopped visiting the Moon before we had barely figured out to do so. We knew that it might be a while before we went back, but we would go back - right?"
"More than 18,300 people applied to join NASA's 2017 astronaut class, almost three times the number of applications received in 2012 for the most recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978. "It's not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, himself a former astronaut. "A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft."
Keith's note: Of the 18,300 applications NASA will pick - at most - a dozen candidates. And those new NASA astronauts that are selected can expect to wait nearly 20 years before they go on the #JourneyToMars or wherever. One has to assume that most of the people applying knew it was a long shot. Many probably did it so that they could get the rejection letter (larger image) to frame and show people that they tried. Many more, however, really, really, REALLY would like to fly in space.
NASA did a good job via social media in pumping people to apply. But what is NASA going to do with this interest once reality sets in and 99.9% of the applicants get the rejection letter? Think about it - a marketing plan (oh wait, NASA is not supposed to that) - an education and public outreach (EPO) effort - has just identified 18,300 people who want to fly in space. I suspect the real number out there has multiple zeros after it. That said, NASA now knows who these 18,300 people are. They applied for a job, so all manner of government privacy regulations kick in. As such, NASA probably can't do a damn thing with this priceless information. Or maybe they can.
NASA has done a lot of #NASASocial stuff. It is useful, but I think it has reached the limit of its effectiveness. NASA now needs to enlist a more robust, personal, one-on-one approach to its EPO efforts. NASA has/had a "solar system ambassadors" program as well as other EPO programs that enlisted interested educators and citizens. Guess what: 18,300 potential participants just popped up on NASA's radar screen.
Again: 18,300 citizens just said that they want to fly on a NASA rocket. What is NASA going to do with this influx of self-identified and overtly-avowed space explorers?
"In late 2013 and early 2014, Twitter, Google, and three law enforcement agencies in two countries tracked down a British woman who allegedly harassed a NASA astronaut over the course of several months in 2013, according to documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information Act request. According to the documents, the astronaut and the woman began direct messaging on Twitter and also texted and called each other several times. After the woman realized the astronaut had a girlfriend, she began sending "false and malicious statements that include excessive profane and abusive language," according to the documents. Motherboard will not be naming the astronaut out of respect for his family's privacy."
"Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell died yesterday. Coincidentally, on 5 Feb. 1971, Mitchell, lunar module pilot for the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission, stands by the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during the early moments of the first extravehicular activity of the mission."
Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, 85, dies in West Palm Beach , Palm Beach Post
"Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, who was part of the Apollo 14 space crew that flew to the moon in 1971, died late Thursday in West Palm Beach, according to his family. Mitchell, 85, lived in suburban Lake Worth and died at a local hospice at about 10 p.m. Thursday, his daughter, former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell told The Palm Beach Post."
"He believed in exploration, having been drawn to NASA by President Kennedy's call to send humans to the moon. He is one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand."
Keith's note: Brian Duffy and Scott Parazynski have been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Scott did not know it at the time, but this is one of the tests, administered by me at Everest Base Camp in 2009, that helped determine if Scott was suitable material for the Astronaut Hall of Fame. He passed.
Hey ladies: I'm applying to be an astronaut, and you should too, Washington Post
"... But I'm applying anyway, because NASA needs a new generation of folks willing to go out to the black (and because I have a pretty good track record of getting by on sheer moxie). Once the selection process and training for this round are all said and done, we'll be gearing up for some pretty exciting missions, including our first crewed mission to Mars."
"Kjell Lindgren played Amazing Grace on the pipes after recording a message about research scientist Victor Hurst, who was involved in astronaut training. ... In a video recorded in the last few days, Mr Lindgren said all of them had come into contact with Dr Hurst during their training and were "shocked and saddened" to hear about his death. Dr Hurst worked for US engineering company Wyle Science as a research scientist and instructor. He died suddenly in October, aged 48. Nasa flight engineer Mr Lindgren said: "He always had a quick smile, a kind word. I don't know if anyone was more enthusiastic and professional about being involved in human space flight."
"On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-7 crew consisted of astronauts Robert Crippen, commander, the first two-time space shuttle astronaut; Frederick H. Hauck, pilot; and three mission specialists -- Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard."
"Sally Ride, this trailblazing astronaut turned physics professor, for so long keenly studied, and then for so long taught, the laws of bodies in motion, as one thread in her lifelong work in science and technology. So it's especially fitting that Google unveils a "Behind the Doodle" animation, as we get to see Ride's own inspiring life-trajectory in motion. Sally Ride, in so many ways, still seems right out of central casting, as if the tale of an American space star was dreamt up in Los Angeles where, in fact, she was born."
"Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI), the largest provider of deathcare products and services in North America, today announced that it will nominate Dr. Ellen Ochoa to be elected to the SCI Board of Directors at the Company's Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held in May 2015."
"F. Curtis (Curt) Michel, the Andrew Hays Buchanan Professor Emeritus of Space Physics and Astronomy, died Feb. 23 at the age of 80. Although he retired in 2000 after 37 years at Rice, Michel continued to keep an office on campus, where he pursued his studies of solar winds, radio pulsars and numerical methods. He was part of the fourth class of astronauts chosen by NASA in 1965 as the agency ramped up the Apollo moon program. He was one of six scientist-astronauts in the class, the first on a roster that until that point had been largely limited to test pilots."
Curt Michel, Wikipedia
Book Review: The Orbital Perspective, SpaceRef
"Ron Garan used to be an astronaut. Now he helps people in remote African communities obtain fresh drinking water. Yet he still has his head back amongst the stars. How he came to this point is the subject of his book "The Orbital Perspective". While many people who have spent time in space have come back with altered perceptions and equipped with a new perspective of our home planet, few manage to express that change in perspective as well as Garan does. Moreover, even fewer actually take that enhanced perspective and put it into action - again, as Garan does."
"The OIG also determined that 13 movie attendees--six government and seven contract employees--had failed to charge their attendance at the movie as non-work hours. The timecards for those 13 employees were later amended or annotated, after the OIG initiated investigation 13-0948-I, to reflect the use of annual leave/personal time or a reference to offsetting hours worked to cover participation in the team event. The OIG concluded investigation 13-0948-I on March 17, 2014, with a determination that, absent these adjustments, the government paid $3,487.31 in taxpayer-funded wages for employees to attend the theater showing of "Star Trek Into Darkness."
Keith's note: I can understand the whole time card thing. But ... NOAA GOES-R (a satellite) employees, who work at an agency (run by a former astronaut) that operates a large number of satellites (in outer space) - attend a SciFi movie (about space) and someone thinks that this contributed to GOES-R delays? Its possible, I suppose - if the individuals involved were actually in launch-critical positions. But DC Metro and traffic delays probably had a much more prominent effect. Meanwhile, everyone wanted NASA to do more tie-in promotions with the very same movie. I hope someone files a FOIA request seeking out the time charges (expense) for the NOAA IG to do this report.
Audit of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series: Comprehensive Mitigation Approaches, Strong Systems Engineering, and Cost Controls Are Needed to Reduce Risks of Coverage Gaps, 25 April 2013.
"Here's the kicker: Shifting the survival training to Russian-occupied Crimea will require foreign cosmonauts to accept travel there without Ukrainian visas, an explicit acquiescence to the new diplomatic status of the province. Refusal to attend survival training is equivalent to failing the training, which by existing training regulations is an automatic disqualification for flight certification. No Crimea trip, no space trip. Lonchakov hinted that Crimea might be used for more than sea survival training. "We are also planning, if it works out, to hold sea and mountain survival training," he told the Itar-Tass news agency. He has also said a post-flight rehabilitation center for cosmonauts could be reopened near Yevpatoria, a Crimean coastal resort."
"Former NASA astronaut Steven R. Nagel, who served as a mission specialist on his first space shuttle flight, pilot on his second and commanded his final two, died Aug. 21 after a long illness. He was 67 years old. After retiring from NASA May 31, 2011, he joined the University Of Missouri College of Engineering in Columbia, Missouri. There he served as an instructor in the University's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department."
"In an extensive study of sleep monitoring and sleeping pill use in astronauts, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Colorado found that astronauts suffer considerable sleep deficiency in the weeks leading up to and during space flight. The research also highlights widespread use of sleeping medication use among astronauts."
"The panel fielded questions about NASA's seemingly risk adverse culture and its possible effect on future exploration, with Crippen admitting that "NASA has become risk adverse." Brandenstein added "that if we would have had the risk culture of the late shuttle era at its beginning, we would have never have launched STS-1."
... "On actual cooperation with the Chinese, Crippen expressed his support: "I believe we ought to be approaching the Chinese to be a part of that as well, they have a space program, they are well proven. We did it with the Russians and it worked out well for us." Crippen also noted that cooperation and information sharing would "naturally be tempered by national security concerns."
"One of the nation's most respected aerospace pioneers has passed away. Distinguished research pilot and aeronautical engineer William Harvey Dana died on May 6, 2014. His long and illustrious career at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center spanned more than 48 years, during which Dana logged more than 8,000 hours in over 60 different aircraft from helicopters and sailplanes to the hypersonic X-15. Several of the airplanes he flew are displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C."
Avalanches: Beauty, Wonder, and Danger - with video (May 2009)
Keith's note: There was a huge avalanche at Everest yesterday. So far it seems that 12 people were killed - all Sherpa guides. They were walking up the Khumu Icefall on their way to work. This (link above) is what Scott Parazynski and I witnessed in May 2009. At the time this was described as being a very, very big avalanche for Everest. As such, I can only imagine what yesterday's fatal avalanche at Everest looked like. No one was injured in the avalanche in this video.
Massive Avalanche Over The Lower Khumbu Icefall - with video (May 2009)
As I watched this equally huge avalanche (link above) a week later I was almost certain that Scott was in it. We did not know for a while if he was. As it happened Scott and Danuru Sherpa climbed fast and were above the Khumbu icefall when it happened. But Scott's climbing partner Rejean and his sherpa Dawa were caught in it. Dawa's quick thinking saved Rejean's life. Alas, one Sherpa guide was lost in this avalanche. It was a curious existence at Everest Base Camp. I awoke every morning to see the Khumbu Icefall outside my tent flap - calm and serene and always an instant away from becoming deadly. You get used to this - and then again you don't.
NASA has its risks and tragedies as well. That said it is always - odd - to watch both cultures (climbing and space) deal with risk. The similarities in risks are often eerily similar yet the ways that the risks are dealt with is often utterly different. FYI I noted this disaprity a decade ago and this led to the Risk and Exploration Symposium that John Grunsfeld and I put together for NASA in 2004. By coincidence, John Grunsfeld was in orbit while Scott and I were at Everest.
Life is very fragile - even for the strongest of climbers - or the most skilled astronauts. But that doesn't mean that all risks should be avoided. Many simply need to be confronted. The risks need to be understood and dealt with in a way that safeguards people while still allowing adventure and exploration to continue. Exploration is a risky endeavour - by definition.
"LIVE FROM SPACE" Program on Space Station Originating from JSC -- Friday, March 14, 8 p.m. EDT, National Geographic Channel. "LIVE FROM SPACE," a live, two-hour special program originating from Johnson Space Center (JSC) and including appearances by the International Space Station (ISS) crew, is scheduled to air world-wide on the National Geographic Channel on Friday, March 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time."
Keith's note: Unless you pay extra for National Geogrpahic Channel, you were unable to watch this NASA-assisted special tonight. NASA TV was not allowed to air it. Also, if you went to the official "Live From Space" website, it crashed a few minutes after the show began - and with it the live video feeds (without any audio). To be certain, crashing a webserver like this speaks to having a lot of interested people trying to get in. That said, its baffling that National Geographic did not plan ahead for this surge in traffic - especially when they did so much international marketing. Meanwhile, it was rather humorous to listen to the open mic in the control room at JSC in the hour leading up to the webcast as the shows's producers struggled to figure a number of things out - and talk about the post-show party.
"Pogue, together with astronauts Gerald Carr and Edward Gibson, spent 84 consecutive days in space from 1973 to 1974 aboard Skylab, the first American space station. Their 12 weeks in orbit was a record at the time, topping the previous Skylab mission's eight weeks. They orbited the earth 1,214 times while aboard the station, traveling 35.5 million miles."
"Dale A. Gardner, an astronaut who helped lead the first salvage operation in space, steering a jet-propelled backpack to corral two wayward satellites and bring them aboard the space shuttle Discovery, all while orbiting 224 miles above Earth, died on Feb. 19 in Colorado Springs. He was 65. His death was confirmed by NASA, which did not provide a cause."
NASA Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board Report
"While I am concerned about ensuring this particular incident does not happen again, I am especially concerned about cultural factors that may have contributed to the event. In our exuberance to get the job done, we may have allowed ourselves to accept the commonly accepted causes for small anomalies. We have a responsibility not to move on from any abnormal situation until we understand it fully or have suitable mitigations to prevent it happening again. Our work both in-house and with our industry and commercial partners should entail diligence in assessing risk and commitment to ensuring mission safety."
- News Conference Presentation - 2/26/14 (120 Kb PDF)
- Full report (11.2 Mb PDF)
"In summary, the causes for this mishap evolved from (1) inorganic materials causing blockage of the drum holes in the EMU water separator resulting in water spilling into the vent loop; (2) the NASA team's lack of knowledge regarding this particular failure mode; and (3) misdiagnosis of this suit failure when it initially occurred on EVA 22."
"NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EST today to discuss the findings of an investigation into the July 2013 spacewalk at the International Space Station when water built up in an astronaut's spacesuit helmet. Soon after the incident, NASA created a Mishap Investigation Board to identify factors that may have contributed to the incident and recommend changes that could be implemented to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. This safety investigation ran concurrently with an engineering investigation into the equipment failure."
Keith's update: Waypoint2space is still selling their "train like an astronaut" courses - even though they admitted to NASAWatch that they are not training people to become astronauts. That does not stop them from prominently asking asking "Have you ever wanted to be an ASTRONAUT" on their main webpage.
This webpage claims "At Waypoint 2 Space, we are proud to be leading the evolution of Commercial Spaceflight Training through our collaboration with NASA centers. Operating from the global hub of space technology - Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - we are helping to shape the future of the Commercial Space Industry."
What "collaboration?" Has any agreement been signed between Waypoint2Space and NASA? NASA says no. Waypoint2space still claims to be "operating" from JSC (technically correct since they have a small office in a tech transfer building onsite) but they make no mention of the fact that their training will actually happen offsite in a rented building. Very misleading. They have removed all of the commercial space company logos that were previously shown on their website. They have also changed their main page so that you cannot easily see other links - but if you go to this page the old menu is still on top.
- Can You Train Like An Astronaut at JSC for $45,000? Not Without NASA's Permission, earlier post
- Waypoint2space: Closer Look at Website Claims About Operations at NASA JSC, earlier post
- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post
Ten Tough Days for NASA, Clay Anderson, Huffington Post
"But did we, America, learn and truly understand? As I discussed in my previous Huffington Post blog post, "Never Give Up, Never Surrender," some of us did, while others did not. Understand that these tragedies did not have to happen. But the lessons learned and the resultant technological growth would ultimately contribute to discoveries and opportunities benefiting all humankind. And that, I believe, should be the legacy of these brave men and women. We must continue to explore."
Keith's note: I finally had a chance to talk with Kevin Heath from Waypoint2space about their astronaut training services in response to earlier postings on NASAWatch. Heath confirmed that they do not have a signed Space Act Agreement with NASA in place and that it is currently stuck in NASA Legal limbo (that certainly can happen). Waypoint2space says that they do have a signed agreement with Jacobs Engineering but that only deals with their interactions with Jacobs - not NASA. Heath also confirmed that NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) has declined to work with them but that the JSC Engineering Directorate was interested. As stated earlier, I find it somewhat perplexing to see how NASA can support a cmpany offering astronaut training when the very part of NASA (MOD) that does such things declines to participate.
"NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance on Friday, Jan. 31. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery Friday morning."
Keith's note: The other day I wrote about the announcement made by Waypoint2space about the astronaut training services they are currently selling - services that claim use of NASA JSC facilities. I did get a few responses from the company (with legal disclosure caveats attached) before they stopped responding. I have asked NASA PAO to respond but they have yet to do so. Below are some observations regarding what is still posted on the Waypoint2space website. I'd be more than happy to post any responses from Waypoint2space - so long as they do not attach legal restrictions on the dissemination of those responses.
Keith's note: According to Waypoint2space.com "To go into space, step out of the vehicle, and float above the earth while reaching for the stars - but wondered if you have what it takes? For the first time in history, you can train like an astronaut using the most advanced facilities and equipment in the world. Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs. These one-of-a-kind programs prepare you for spaceflight while you experience first hand what every astronaut has during their preparation for space. Additionally, SFP's are trained in accordance to our FAA Safety Approval ensuring a consistent level of spaceflight competency."
Sounds cool. But a closer look raises some important questions.
Astronaut Leland Melvin to Leave NASA
"I am sorry to inform the NASA family that my good friend and our Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin, has decided to retire next month after more than 24 years of NASA service. Since assuming the role of AA in 2010, Leland has streamlined NASA's education organization and portfolio to deliver science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content more effectively to educators and students. Using NASA's unique missions, programs and other agency assets, he has helped cultivate the next generation of explorers - one that is truly inclusive and properly reflects the diverse make up and talent of this nation's youth and our agency's future. - Charlie B"
"Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks: 2013 Letter Report is the first in a series of five reports from the Institute of Medicine that will independently review more than 30 evidence reports that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has compiled on human health risks for long-duration and exploration space flights. This report builds on the 2008 IOM report Review of NASA's Human Research Program Evidence Books: A Letter Report, which provided an initial and brief review of the evidence reports."
Beyoncé: Sampling The Sounds of Tragedy For Pop Music, Earlier post
"Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks -- Letter Report [Institute of Medicine]: NASA has asked the Institute of Medicine to provide independent reviews of more than 30 publicly available evidence reports on human health risks for long-duration and exploration space flight. This letter report examines evidence reports on the risk of injury from dynamic loads, the risk of therapeutic failure due to ineffective medication, and the risk of spaceflight-induced hypertension and visual alterations."
"This interpretation responds to a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) regarding whether the space transportation regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would restrict NASA astronauts from performing operational functions during a commercial space launch or reentry under license from the FAA."
NASA Administrator Remembers Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter
"The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of original Mercury astronaut Malcom Scott Carpenter from complications following a stroke. Carpenter, who was the second American to orbit the Earth in 1962, was 88. "Today, the world mourns the passing of Scott Carpenter. As one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, he was in the first vanguard of our space program -- the pioneers who set the tone for our nation's pioneering efforts beyond Earth and accomplished so much for our nation."
"When John Glenn soared into space as the first American in orbit, Scott Carpenter wished him bon voyage with three simple words: "Godspeed, John Glenn." Glenn bid farewell to his lifelong pal who died Thursday in the same way. "Godspeed, Scott Carpenter --Great Friend," Glenn, the last remaining Mercury 7 astronaut, said in a statement issued by his spokesman on Friday. He added: "You are missed."
Scott Carpenter, Wikipedia
"I saw "Gravity" yesterday - in all its glory - in 3-D on a monster screen. I did so in the middle of the day so as to get the perfect seat. As it happens, any seat in the theater would have been perfect - with or without 3-D - this movie is that good. In watching the film I immediately felt myself pulled into the world that this film created. Only two other films have ever managed to do that to me: "Avatar" and "2001: A Space Odyssey". When I first saw "2001" during its initial run, I was lucky enough to see it in Cinerama - the IMAX of the day. I was already interested in space, but that experience left me changed forever. I can imagine how "Gravity" could have a similar effect on young people today."
"Of all the government agencies, NASA is among the hardest hit by the government shutdown. As of Oct. 1, nearly all of its employees have been told to pack up and head home. But there are two NASA workers who can't leave the office, at least not without great expense to the taxpayer. Astronauts Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins are orbiting some 250 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station. They're in touch with mission control, but it's not clear they have all that much to do."
"Today, Gregory H. Johnson, Colonel (Ret), was named executive director for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) - the nonprofit entity selected by NASA to manage the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Col. Johnson will assume his role effective September 1, 2013."
"NASA astronaut Michael Foale has retired, ending a 26-year space agency career that included 375 days in space during six space shuttle missions and extended stays aboard two space stations.
Foale spent 145 days aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1997 and 194 days aboard the International Space Station as commander of Expedition 8 from October 2003 to April 2004. He also conducted four spacewalks over his NASA career totaling almost 23 hours."
"NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) has released solicited research response area NRA NNJ13ZSA002N-TWINS "Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors" that solicits applied research in support of HRP goals and objectives. This response area is Appendix D of the Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) NRA (NNJ13ZSA002N)."
"There is a singular opportunity to propose limited, short-term investigations examining the differences in genetic, proteomic, metabolomics, and related functions in twin male monozygous astronauts associated with differential exposure to spaceflight conditions. This opportunity has emerged from NASA's decision to fly veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a period of one year commencing in March 2015, while his identical twin brother, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, remains on Earth. Scott Kelly, a veteran of two Space Shuttle flights as well as a six-month ISS mission, will have a cumulative duration of 540 days in low Earth orbit at the conclusion of the one-year flight, while Mark Kelly, a veteran of four Space Shuttle flights, has a cumulative duration of 54 days in low Earth orbit. This opportunity originated at the initiative of the twin astronauts themselves."
Keith's note: I have to say this is a cool idea. Hats off to the Kelly brothers for making this offer.
NASA suspects life-support pack in spacewalk emergency, Florida Today
"NASA engineers are narrowing in on the cause of the dangerous spacesuit water leak that could have drowned Italy's first spacewalker, officials said Monday.
Meanwhile, Luca Parmitano and crewmates aboard the International Space Station started unpacking a Russian space freighter that hauled up three tons of supplies and a spacesuit repair kit over the weekend.
Engineers "are looking at what steps to take next, this week," NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said. "They actually have isolated the failure to the spacesuit's Primary Life Support System, which is essentially the backpack of the suit."
Marc's update: NASA released a video this morning with Chris Cassidy talking about the faulty suit.
"A complicated, high-altitude test Wednesday demonstrated NASA's new Orion spacecraft could land safely even if one of its parachutes failed.
The 10th in a series of evaluations to check out the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle's parachute system dropped the test capsule from a C-17 aircraft at its highest altitude yet, 35,000 feet above the Arizona desert. One of three massive main parachutes was cut away early on purpose, leaving the spacecraft to land with only two. The test at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground was the highest-altitude test of a human spacecraft parachute since NASA's Apollo Program."
Marc's note: Unfortunately the broadcast quality was subpar and barely worth watching.
NASA Wants Spacesuit Repair Kit on Russian Launch, AP via Florida Today
"NASA is rushing to get spacesuit repair tools on a launch to the International Space Station this weekend.
... The Russian supply ship is set to lift off Saturday from Kazakhstan."
"NASA has appointed a board to investigate the July 16 early termination of a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, develop a set of lessons learned from the incident and suggest ways to prevent a similar problem in the future.
The board will begin its work Friday, Aug. 2, in close coordination with a NASA engineering team already examining the spacesuit and life support equipment astronaut Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) used during the excursion. The engineering team is working to determine why water built up inside Parmitano's helmet."
"The CCtCap contract is the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017.
The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. This procurement is a full and open competition. The NAICS Code and Size Standard are 336414 and 1000 employees, respectively."
Marc's note: Today's spacewalk had to be cut short after only an hour and 32 minutes as a water leak in Luca Parmitano's suit was causing a build-up of water in his helmet. Both astronauts returned safely to the confines of the Space Station. The location of the leak within Parmitano's suit is to be determined.
UPDATE: The post spacewalk news briefing revealed that NASA does not know what caused the problem with Luca's suit at this time. They will be reviewing all the data and examining the suit to figure out the issue. Watch the press conference.
"In conjunction with the memorial service and tree dedication at NASA's Johnson Space Center on June 20, 2013, the center created this video honoring the legacy of Neil Armstrong. The video takes a look at the accidental legend that Armstrong became, and the history-making flight that he took with his colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins."
Women in Space Part One, Female Firsts in Flight for Space Exploration and Research, NASA Blog - A Lab Aloft (International Space Station Research)
"In today's A Lab Aloft, guest blogger Liz Warren, Ph.D., recalls the inspirational contributions and strides made by women in space exploration and International Space Station research.
This month we celebrate the anniversaries of three "firsts" for female space explorers. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space. Then on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became America's first woman in space, followed by Liu Yang as China's first woman in space on June 16, 2012. Though their flight anniversaries are not in June, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first European woman in space: Helen Sharman in 1991; the first Canadian woman: Roberta Bondar in 1992; and the first Japanese woman: Chiaki Mukai in 1994."
Marc's note:Well worth reading.
"After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.
Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle."
- NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday via a Google+ Hangout.
Marc's note: Call me skeptical, but perhaps some of these astronauts will make a fly-by of Mars or to its moons, but to land, I don't see that in the next 20 years with the current political situation. If a private-public attempt was made, say SpaceX teaming up with NASA, then maybe. And while there's ongoing "big picture" work for an international effort, until a decision is made by a President that it will happen and Congress buys into, it's just a dream.
"NASA will honor the life and historic achievements of astronaut Neil Armstrong during a memorial service at 10 a.m. CDT Thursday, June 20, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969, when he became the first person to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 11.
JSC Director Ellen Ochoa, fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, family members and longtime associates will pay tribute to Armstrong. He was 82 when he died on Aug. 25, 2012, in Cincinnati."
The Call of Mars, Buzz Aldrin Op-Ed, New York Times
"I am calling for a unified international effort to explore and utilize the Moon, a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon Apollo. Let me emphasize: A second "race to the Moon" is a dead end. America should chart a course of being the leader of this international activity to develop the Moon. The United States can help other nations do things that they want to do, a fruitful avenue for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy."
"A step in the right direction is creating an International Lunar Development Corporation, customized to draw upon the legacy of lessons learned from such endeavors as the International Geophysical Year (whose purpose was to get scientists all over the world to focus on the physics and atmosphere of the Earth), the International Space Station program, as well as model organizations such as Intelsat and the European Space Agency. Space collaboration should be the new norm, including the tapping of talented Chinese, Indian and other space experts from around the globe."
"In my view, U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. "
Marc's note: Buzz, I like it in a big picture kind of way. However, I see a few practical problems with your plan. 1) The economics of it. How are you going to sell this grand vision? And who's going to pay for it? We've got ventures trying to get to the moon now, but no ones got there yet and funding is very hard to come by. 2) Some in Congress won't like the idea of working with China, so how are you going to sell that. 3) What's the cost of implementing your Mars settlement plan? And who'se going to pay for it?
The public needs more than to be inspired by grand visions. They need to be sold on the economics of it and how it will benefit them. The Collins and Lampson op-ed below, "Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration", has part of the answer, but people need to be convinced that the investment for innovation will lead somewhere. They certainly don't want to pay for someone else to settle on Mars.
"NASA and Sally Ride Science are inviting journalists to tonight's "Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy," a national tribute to America's first woman in space. The special event will be held at the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."
"Today, President Barack Obama announced he will award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to travel to space. The Medal of Freedom is the Nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
"The president announced Monday afternoon Ride will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House later this year. The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
Keith's note: Canada's Chris Hadfield's use of social media and other aspects of education and public outreach while on orbit has been masterful - even transcendent - and sets a new bar for others to strive for on future missions. Oh wait: NASA is eliminating Education and Public Outreach. Nevermind. NASA no longer cares about these things.
And Charlie Bolden agrees with this change in focus and wants to abandon half a century of public engagement. Utterly pathetic. Not what a true leader should do.
There will be no other NASA Watch updates today. Just this.
"Owning something flown on the Apollo lunar missions has always been challenging. However since last September, when the U.S. house passed a resolution granting astronauts clear title to the items they carried into space, it has become a lot easier."
Auction dates: May 16 to May 23
"Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights. Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017."
"Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has announced the names of seven ships. Included is an ocean-class auxiliary general oceanographic research (AGOR) ship, the R/V Sally Ride. Mabus named the future R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28), which will be a Neil Armstrong-class AGOR ship, to honor the memory of Sally Ride, a professor, scientist and an innovator at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego. Ride was the first woman and also the youngest person in space. She later served as director of NASA's Office of Exploration. Traditionally, AGORs are named for nationally recognized leaders in exploration and science. The R/V Sally Ride is the first academic research ship to be named in honor of a woman."
Keith's note: Obviously the author of this release did not do a full fact check. Sally Ride was not the first woman in space, nor was she the youngest person in space. That said, as the release notes, "the R/V Sally Ride is the first academic research ship to be named in honor of a woman."
"This report is based on the panel's 2012 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; center visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making; discussions with NASA management, employees, and contractors; and the panel members' past experiences. The report highlights issues that could have an impact on safety."
"In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety--one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives."
Keith's note: It is exceptionally odd that the ASAP gets all hot and bothered about certifying American-produced commercial crew spacecraft when the ASAP all too willingly said it was OK to fly Americans on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - spacecraft which have never been given the same level of formal safety certification by NASA - i.e. the certification that the ASAP apparently wants for domestically produced commercial spacecraft. A number of years ago, at a time when Americans living on Mir were exposed to repeated accidents, I asked (then) NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory in a public setting if Russian spacecraft meet or exceed NASA safety requirements. Gregry said "clearly they do not". This question and response was subsequently referenced in a congressional hearing.
It is also a bit odd that the ASAP was perfectly happy with NASA's plan to fly crews on Orion/Ares 1 flight after only one unmanned test. The same (apparently) goes for the current plan for Orion/SLS. The ASAP's credibility suffers when they pursue contradictory and inconsistent paths such as this.
"A lack of federal support and local funding has forced the University of North Carolina Wilmington to stop operations at Aquarius, the world's only permanent undersea laboratory - a loss that will take away a key component of the school's marine science program, a school official said. "Aquarius is unique. It's the only asset like this in the world," Aquarius director Tom Potts said of the facility in the Florida Keys. "UNCW does lose a little of what makes it unique by losing this program." But the program is not completely lost. It will soon be operated by Miami-based Florida International University."
"The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease."
Keith's note: I can't seem to find any mention of this NASA-funded research at NASA.gov. Given the animal rights controversy that surrounded these experiments, and the results of this specific research project (with clear relevance to missions to asteroids, Mars, etc.), you'd think that NASA would want taxpayers, stakeholders, and the media, to know about these findings. Guess not.
NASA produces a regular listing of publications (NASA Spaceline Current Awareness) on the space life science research it funds. However, NASA is unable to find a way to publish it online. As a result no one really gets to see what the agency does - unless they visit SpaceRef, that is. We have a complete archive online stretching back to 1999.
Keith's update: This PLoS research paper made the rounds of various news outlets - all of them asking the question: Does space travel cause/aggravate Alzheimer's? Given than many of us have had our families directly affected by this disease, stories that mention it tend to get our attention. NASA's public response? Nothing. Yet, its not as if they are not concerned about radiation health (they funded this research after all). This was a perfect opportunity for the agency to show how its research not only serves space exploration needs but also has a relevance to issues facing the public.
By coincidence, this solicitation "Development of the Expandable Coil Concept" was issued today by NASA JSC and shows one way that this issue is being addressed in terms of spacecraft design. Yet another golden opportunity for NASA to link up its research and inform the public. Again, nothing but silence. If NASA does care enough to tell people what they are doing, then how can the agency expect people to care enough to be interested?
"NASA/JSC has a requirement to continue the study of active radiation shielding for crew protection, a key challenge with human exploration of space."
"NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut, Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team. Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon's north pole."
Keith's note: Why does NASA JSC PAO have staff in Saudi Arabia? Are there that many NASA employees attending the ASE event such that they need a PAO handler?
Earth's Astronauts Meet, earlier post
Keith's update: According to ASE: "Amiko is here as Scott's guest. Scott is here as the official NASA active astronaut representative; although he is on official orders, all (flights, hotels, meals, everything) of his and Amiko's expenses have been picked up by our Saudi hosts (all expenses for all attendees have been picked up by the hosts). She is here purely as a private citizen and Scott's guest."
Keith's note: I wonder if the opportunity to get an all expenses paid trip to Saudi Arabia was offered to other NASA JSC employees instead of just sending a PAO employee.
"The conference will be attended by more than 100 astronauts from 18 different countries along with experts in the space and aeronautics sector from all around the world. ... The event will be addressed on the first day by Prince Sultan bin Salman. Other speakers include KACST President Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel and Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saud. Among the foreign speakers will be Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, president of ASE and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space; George W. Abbey, former director of Johnson Space Center, USA; Charles Elachi, director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US; and Thierry H. Duquesne, director for strategy, programs and international relations, Center National d'Etudes Spatiales -- CNES, France."
Soyuz spacecraft launches 32 fish, hippo to space station, space.com via Fox
"I think it's going to be something special, and I will get unforgettable memories," Novitskiy said in a NASA briefing before the mission. Novitskiy picked a small toy hippo, a gift from his teenage daughter Yana, to use an indicator of when the Soyuz reached the weightless environment of space."
Keith's note: Contrary to what some space bloggers and writers have suggested, this is not a "hippo". Rather, it is a plushie version of Suni Williams' dog "Gorbie" Indeed, she pulled the plushie version of Gorbie out for me during the on-orbit interview I did with her in September - more than a month before this recent Soyuz was even launched.
THIS is what a hippo looks like in a Soyuz.
Keith's note: Former U.S. Senator - and astronaut - John Glenn appears in this Obama campaign video. While astronauts have endorsed candidates in the past - and even run for (and won) office, I think (as best as I can tell) that this is the first time that an astronaut has appeared in a campaign video (film) in support of a specific presidential candiate. Fact checking by NASAWatch readers would be appreciated.
@NASAWatch Tweet: 24 hrs - nothing from #NASA.gov mentioning Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space - just one single tweet yesterday bit.ly/RN6PiR
Keith's note: Buzz surrounding Felix Baumgartner's parachute jump from 24 miles, with a top descent speed of Mach 1.24, is still all over the media and clearly captured the public's imagination. 8 million people watched on YouTube - a new record. Tribute and parody YouTube videos have already gone viral (cats anyone?). Yet, other than a single tweet yesterday (unless I missed something) NASA has not said a single thing about this amazing feat. Yet there was constant mention by the news media as to how such a jump could lead to better spacesuits for NASA (among others). Alas, NASA was originally approached to participate in this activity but declined the offer to do so. Sources tell me that many NASA managers went out of their way to find ways to say "no" to this.
Its now clearly possible for non-NASA entities to approach - and reach space - and do things NASA cannot do. And, after half a century, NASA's increasing absence from these efforts doesn't even seem to be odd anymore. Is this the end of an era - and the beginning of another?
Has NASA even noticed?
Yes, the Space Jump Mattered, Mashable
"So pay no attention to the naysayers. This was just as giant a leap as it felt. It reminded us that making a taller iPhone does not have to be the ultimate ambition of the technically minded. We can dare to look up from our Star Trek-inspired smartphones, gaze at the heavens, and dream of doing things that seem completely ridiculous."
NASA Signs Agreement to Develop Nasal Spray for Motion Sickness, NASA (with full text of Space Act Agreement)
"Under the Space Act Agreement, Epiomed will formulate the drug, called intranasal scopolamine, or INSCOP. Astronauts often experience motion sickness in space. As a result, NASA has conducted extensive research into the causes and treatments for the condition. Scopolamine is effective and can be administered as a tablet or injected. With a precise dosage, the NASA spray formulation has been shown to work faster and more reliably than the oral form."
"Epiomed will take responsibility for further development and commercialization of INSCOP, assisted by NASA-HH&P (Human Health & Performance Directorate) technology, and assume sponsorship of the IND (Investigational New Drug) from NASA under the SAA."
"President Barack Obama ended a months-long fight over NASA relics this week when he signed into law a bill that confers full ownership of early NASA artifacts to the astronauts that took them as souvenirs. The legislation follows a public -- and sometimes bitter -- battle between NASA and its astronaut corps over the sale of keepsakes from the agency's earliest days, most notably the nearly $390,000 auction of a systems checklist from the infamous Apollo 13 mission."
- Congress Deals With Space Artifacts and Moon Rocks, earlier post
"It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts."
"Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the first Armstrong-class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ship will be named Neil Armstrong. Mabus named the future R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) to honor the memory of Neil Armstrong, best known for being the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong was an aeronautics pioneer and explorer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) serving as an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator. Armstrong also served as a naval aviator flying nearly 80 combat missions during the Korean War."
"Describing the bill, Chairman Hall said, "This bill seeks to eliminate any further ambiguity about Apollo-era artifacts that were received by the astronauts. It simply says that astronauts who flew through the end of the Apollo program will be granted full right of ownership of any artifacts received from their missions."
- Congress Deals With Space Artifacts and Moon Rocks, earlier post
"It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts."
Azerbaijan joins its "black list" of U.S. astronauts (translated via Google), Armenia Today
"Azerbaijan joins its "black list" of U.S. astronauts. Azerbaijani authorities intend to declare persona non grata two foreign nationals who recently visited the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This is an astronaut Charles Duke and Claude Nicollier. Duke and Nicole were part of a scientific conference "Man and Space", which was held in Stepanakert. The conference was dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong. ... The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan now claim that for "illegal, inconsistent with Azerbaijan" visit Karabakh astronauts will be included in the list of persona non grata."
Keith's note: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not officially recognized by Azerbaijan (or anyone else) and is aligned with Armenia. Since Duke and Nicollier "joined" a list, I guess that list already existed. What other astronauts have insulted the Republic of Azerbaijan? Its not all together clear if being on the "black list" is an honor or an insult. I guess we need to ask Borat.
Full translation below
"NASA will provide special live programming of the public memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral to honor the life and career of astronaut Neil Armstrong at 10 a.m. EDT, Thursday, Sept. 13." Replay of the service.
NASA photos from the service
How Neil Armstrong inspired a POW, John McCain, Washington Post
"Once in a while, the Vietnamese unwittingly let a little good news slip by. One evening, Hannah played a clip of a speech by a prominent American opponent of the war. It was a quick, throwaway line in a long list of diatribes about the war and the president. But we all caught it. The quote was something like: "President Nixon can put a man on the moon, but he can't end the war in Vietnam."
Yes, that was news to us, arriving years after the successful Apollo 11 mission."
"Three Ocean Optics instruments have completed their eight month journey to Mars to study soil composition as part of the ChemCam mission. The company's modular Jaz spectrometer scaled Mt. Everest with a team that included NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to measure solar irradiance at extreme altitude."
"If you've ever seen a Starfleet away team beaming down to a new planet, you know that the first thing they do is whip out their tricorder and scan everything. Many of NASA's astrobiologists want one. Well, Scott and I had one at Everest."
Keith's note: I carried this cool device up to Everest Base Camp and then Scott carried it up the mountain. Its not unusual for people to trek into Everest with the latest high tech gear on display but every time I pulled this thing out people stopped to watch me go through my procedure. I took this promo photo of Scott using the Jaz unit while we were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp. An instant later we heard a loud noise coming from the icefall. I quickly switched my camera from still to video and shot this video since I was literally pointed at the exact right spot already. This was one of the largest avalanches in recent seasons.
Had I not been taking the PR shot of Scott and the Jaz unit I'd have missed most of this avalanche. (More details in comments below). Now I see that our good friends at Ocean Optics have hardware on Mars. How cool - especially since I had 4 little Moon rocks in my chest pocket when I shot these pics and video - and our Moon rocks are now on the ISS.
"The Committee will meet to consider the following measure, or for other purposes: H.R. 4158 - To confirm full ownership rights for certain United States astronauts to artifacts from the astronauts' space missions."
- NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post
- Selling History Or Just Personal Stuff?, earlier post
- NASA OIG Admits The Obvious About Moon Rocks, earlier post
- NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items, earlier post
Keith's update: This markup has been postponed.
Keith's note: It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts.
Maybe this legislation will solve some of this confusion since it refers to some specific items "personal logs, checklists, flight manuals, prototype and proof test articles used in training, and disposable flight hardware salvaged from jettisoned lunar modules" which astronauts can keep and specifically excludes "lunar rocks and other lunar material" which they cannot keep.
"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism - and literally changed the face of America's space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."
Statement by the President on the Passing of Sally Ride
"She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally's family and friends."
"We are deeply saddened to hear of Sally Ride's passing. Her passion brought STEM education to the forefront and for that we will be forever grateful. She will continue to be a great source of inspiration for students around the globe. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones." - Dr. Scott Parazynski, MD, chairman of Challenger Center for Space Science Education
"The Conrad Foundation and our students and partners are saddened to hear of Sally Ride's untimely death. Sally was a great physicist, astronaut, educator and American hero. She dedicated her life to bringing the world of science to girls with her Sally Ride Science Academy and Camps. She was a wonderful role model for young women and girls and will be sadly missed. We salute her contribution to our nation and to our future."
Keith's note: Astronaut Sally Ride died hours before Aviator Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday. Ah history - you make such poignant connections.
Astronauts support expansion of space station crew size, Houston Chronicle
"Astronauts aboard the International Space Station said this week they would welcome NASA's proposals to expand the lab's crew size from six to seven. "It would certainly help," said Don Pettit, a flight engineer and one of three crew members working in the U.S. half of the station. NASA senior leaders have begun talking about expanding the lab's crew size to seven when vehicles built by private contractors, such as SpaceX, come online as expected later this decade."
@Astro_Box: Alan Poindexter "Dex" passed away today in a jet ski accident. He was a talented, courageous Navy veteran with gifts...
@Astro_Box: Dex was a lovable guy with a strong work ethic. He was selected to command a space shuttle on his 2nd flight: STS-131.
"Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say 51-year-old Capt. Alan G. Poindexter was riding on a jet ski with his 22-year-old son Sunday afternoon when his 26-year-old son crashed into them with another jet ski."
"We in the astronaut family have lost not only a dear friend, but also a patriot of the United States," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "He proudly served his country for 26 years as a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut and commander of a space shuttle. I am proud to have both flown in space and worked with him for so many years. Dex will be deeply missed by those of us at Johnson and the entire NASA family."
"Dawn is breaking on the morning of February 1, 2003 above West Texas. Suddenly the peace of the early morning is shattered by two loud bangs. The Space Shuttle Columbia is announcing its return home ... Gone is its precious cargo of seven astronauts from around the world. Among them, Col. Ilan Ramon, Israel's first Astronaut. Also gone, an artifact that embodied the glory of the Shuttle's mission and the despair of its demise: a tiny Torah scroll - smuggled into a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust; safeguarded by Joachim Joseph, a Holocaust survivor; and carried into space by Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut."
Keith's note: John Llewellyn, Apollo era flight controller "Black RETRO", died on Tuesday. Details to follow.
"Houston, We've Had a Problem", Jim Lovell
"In Mission Control the Gold Team, directed by Gerald Griffin (seated, back of head to camera), prepares to take over from Black Team (Glynn Lunney, seated, in profile) during a critical period. Seven men with elbows on console are Deke Slayton, Joe Kerwin (Black CapCom), Vance Brand (Gold CapCom), Phil Shaffer (Gold FIDO), John Llewellyn (Black RETRO), Charles Deiterich (Gold RETRO), and Lawrence Canin (Black GNC). Standing at right is Chester Lee, Mission Director from NASA's Washington headquarters, and broad back at right belogs to Rocco Petrone, Apollo Program Director. Apollo 13 had two other "ground" teams, the White and the Maroon. All devised heroic measures to save the mission from disaster."
How Commercial Space Is Paying Off Now, Aviation Week
"We are aware that SpaceX does have an upgrade coming to the Falcon 9 that they intend to use for crew," Jett says. "[I]f they win CCiCap, we would see in their certification plan . . . [just] how they would get comfortable certifying that vehicle. They're going to tell us how they would certify it, and then we'll balance that against how we would certify it, and be able to understand that delta of what we would be able to do under that certification contract [which is] going to come sometime in the future."
Candidate challenged over 'astronaut' title, The Fresno Bee
"Hernandez's attempted use of 'astronaut' violates the Election Code's unambiguous requirement that a candidate's ballot designation reflect one's current profession, vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year," the lawsuit states. ... The suit notes that Hernandez reported to the clerk of the House of Representatives that he received $150,000 from work as the "executive director for strategic operations" with MEI Technologies. "In the same disclosure to Congress, [Hernandez] reported that he received no income from NASA in 2011," the lawsuit states, adding that "astronaut is not a title one carries for life."
Keith's note: These lawyers are loons. Of course you can call yourself an "astronaut" if you no longer work for NASA. People have been doing this for decades. Indeed, you can do so if you have never worked for NASA or never plan to. Charlie Walker worked for McDonnell Douglas when he flew in space as an "astronaut". Brian Binnie is an "astronaut" and worked for Scaled Composites. Are you an "astronaut" if you don't have another flight scheduled? Was John Glenn not an "astronaut" during the decades that he was in the Senate? My guess is that Hernandez is going to win the election - and his opponents know it. Otherwise you would not see goofy, desperate legal challenges like this.
Judge: Jose Hernandez can be 'astronaut' on ballot, SF Chronicle
"It took a Sacramento Superior Court judge Thursday to rule that the Democrat can be described an "astronaut" on California's June 5 primary election ballots in a nationally watched House battle."
"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that former NASA astronaut, International Space Station (ISS) commander, Naval Aviator, and test pilot Michael E. Lopez-Alegria (Capt., U.S. Navy, Ret.) has been named as President, effective March 19, 2012. Lopez-Alegria was selected for the position following a vote of the Board of Directors of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF)."
"During his career, Lopez-Alegria logged more than 257 days in space, including 215 days as commander of the Expedition 14 mission to the ISS, which stands as the single longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria also logged more than 67 hours during his 10 spacewalks, more than any other American, and second only in the record books to Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev."
iPads Would Be Great in Space, Astronaut Says, TechNews Daily
"NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, who commands the space station, said that while he doesn't own a new iPad -- or any other tablet -- he definitely could use one in space. "I don't have an iPad yet, and I most certainly don't have one up here on the space station," Burbank said today while answering a question from a student in San Jose, Calif., via a video link. "At some point I think that would be a really good tool to have up here because it would be a lot easier to have a single tablet, a single screen, to take with you to do procedures and science experiments instead of having a big laptop with you."
The iPad and an Angry Bird Head to Space, iPad News (28 Oct 2011)
"The next unmanned resupply vehicle headed for the International Space Station next month will be loaded with much needed propellant, oxygen, water, thousands of pounds of crew equipment and 2 iPads all ready to entertain the Russians who will receive them."
Keith's note: So I guess the Russians won't let their American crew mates use their iPads.
"Those early ecosystems resulted in the formation of luxuriant microbial mats with a variety of morphologies which are seen today in the stromatolitic fossil record scattered around the globe. Until recently, there have been no reports of modern microorganisms forming such structures, but in 2008 our research team discovered large conical stromatolites forming beneath the thick perennial ice of Lake Untersee in Antarctica."
Keith's note: SCUBA diving with robots under the antarctic ice in search of life. Good practice for looking for life's signs on Mars, Europa, Enceladus ...
Keith's note: I just learned that Astronaut Janice Voss has died. Details to follow.
"NASA astronaut Janice Voss passed away from cancer overnight after a courageous battle. One of only six women who have flown in space five times, Voss' career was highlighted by her work and dedication to scientific payloads and exploration."
Reader note 31 Jan: "The following relates to previous discussions on NASAwatch about what text, pictures, items, etc belong to NASA and which belong to the astronauts themselves. I really have been enjoying reading Don Pettit's blog at Air & Space about his life on the ISS. It appears that NASA or someone has censored his blog. His blog entry "Remove before Flight" posted yesterday 1/3/0/2011 is no longer available. Try: this original link and it comes back with nothing. If you enter this into Google, you will see Google's cache of the post: cache:http://blogs.airspacemag.com/pettit/2012/01/30/remove-before-flight/ . I'm also attaching an image of Google's cached page in case the Google cached page disappears."
Keith's 1 Feb update: I am still waiting for a NASA PAO response. I have also requested the original image of the "CAUTION" tag so that we can see what it says.
Keith's 6 Feb update: Well, it has been a week and JSC PAO has said nothing. This is what I have learned behind the scenes. Fact is, JSC PAO did not have a role in this - at first - since they were out of the loop until the blog post was deleted and inquiries started. The Astronaut Office ordered the removal of this post. Don Pettit's blogs were being sent directly to Air & Space magazine without prior approval by the Astronaut Office or JSC PAO - just as Ron Garan's postings to "Fragile Oasis" had been handled throughout his entire mission. The Astronaut Office saw this post by Pettit, thought that it was unacceptable, and told Air & Space that they had to take it offline. The post remains offline with no reason given as to why it was unacceptable or what could be done to make it acceptable. (you can still read it here) Now, JSC PAO hopes that I will get tired of beating this issue and then move on. JSC PAO is also afraid that if the whole story got out that the Astronaut Office would be made to look bad. So, if JSC responds formally to my request you can rest assured that they are not telling the whole story.
Its too bad that control freaks have gotten the middle of this. Pettit (and Garan before him) are unusually good at relating their experiences to wide audiences at home. Now these long-term ISS residents will have official worriers from the Astronaut Office sitting in a cubicle trying to make sure that the fresh and unfiltered nature of these blog postings never sees the light of day.
NASA science chief advocates ties with human spaceflight, SpaceflightNow
"Grunsfeld told Spaceflight Now he met with Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA's human exploration division, in his first week in office. "One of the reasons I'm in this job now is because NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden believed that teaming with human spaceflight on those things that make sense, on our exploration program, for science to take advantage of the resources of human spaceflight, for human spaceflight to be informed by the science we can do at planetary destinations, for instance, can make the whole program stronger," Grunsfeld said."
"More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency. After a thorough selection process, which includes interviews and medical examinations, nine to 15 people will be selected to become part of the 21st astronaut class."
Keith's note: According to NASA PAO, NASA received 8,000 astronaut applications in 1978. Hmm ... It was during 1977 that NASA used Nichelle Nichols to help encourage a broader range of applicants. According to Memory Alpha: "After meeting Nichols at a Star Trek convention in 1975, scientist Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer suggested that the actress take part in NASA's recruitment drive. Nichols took up the role in 1977, making recruitment and training films, and supervising astronaut recruits and hopefuls. She noted that the applicant count went from fewer than 100 a year to 1,649 within six months."
"Given the sheer mass of the structure, and the slow manner with which things change here, this inukshuk may well be standing 500 years from now. That should be long enough. Maybe someone serving on a starship will think to visit it."
"To the friends and families of these lost space travelers, these inukshuks offer a silent thank you - one amplified by the austere remoteness of this place - a remoteness you have to spend a lot of effort to visit. Right now, space travel is just like that. Hopefully that will change one day."
Apollo 13 checklist brings $388,375 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas
"The Apollo 13 Lunar Module Systems Activation Checklist upon which Commander James Lovell made his handwritten calculations to guide his wounded spacecraft and crew home - scant two hours after uttering the famous words, "Houston, we've had a problem." - consigned by Commander Lovell himself, brought $388,375 today as the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions' Nov. 30 Space Signature(R) Auction."
"Soon after settling into a booth, [74-year-old suspect Joann] Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff's deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery."
"Mitchell said he doesn't understand why the sale of the camera so inflamed government attorneys. He and other astronauts have given away and sold other mementos that were given to them from their moon missions. "This whole thing, frankly, seems to be some young new lawyer in the organization trying to make a name for himself," he said. "It's been frustrating."
"Thus the base layer of all of his paintings contain small pieces of his space suit and the command module and also very small amounts of Moon dust. Finally, the paintings, themselves, convey unique memories of an unique era."
Keith's note: It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts.
Keith's note: I have seen Robonaut-2 in action and its dexterity is interesting - and rather facile. So ... how could NASA demonstrate this dexterity in new ways, make it a little more "human" or approachable, - and reach a new segment of the populace that is normally overlooked? Program it to use Sign Language. Background: I worked for more than a decade as a professional certified (educational) sign language interpreter. This idea occurred to me when I was looking at this picture and instantly wondered what Robonaut-2 "wanted" or why it was seemingly in the process of saying "here" or maybe "give". Imagine how fast a video of Robonaut-2 saying something in American Sign Language from space would go viral. NASA could have a competition wherein people submit questions for it to answer. NASA already has a signing astronaut and SMD and NLSI already put out books in Braille. Just a thought.
P.S. Maybe he could repeat what that alien signed in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (video). If you watch that scene, the alien that is signing actually moves its hand like Robonaut does. I first saw this film when it came out with my hearing impaired roommates - none of us knew that aliens were going to sign so we all freaked out when one of them did. Of course, it was natural to us that all aliens would know how to sign - since they all already speak English, right?
"Cowing: Let's go back to what we were talking about several weeks ago before you began your NEEMO mission - the idea that being there - and doing it as - opposed to intellectualizing things ...
Squyres: ... yea, it is really different when you actually have to do it!"
Astronaut confident NASA will rebound from 'limbo', Des Moines Register
"Clayton Anderson] said the agency needs a firm target, such as a manned mission to Mars. President Barack Obama has backed off that plan, shelving a return to the moon and instead looking at a possible asteroid visit. "We lack leadership," Anderson said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. "We've had lulls like this before, but I'm not sure we've had many that are quite as tough as what we have now. Now, we are in a limbo state." ... Anderson said he most likely won't fly again after getting crosswise with the current NASA brass. He had some choice words for Mission Control about space station procedures and life, and the bosses didn't want to hear it, he said. "They told me I was too candid and blunt with Mission Control and others, and that my skill set did not match long-term space missions," Anderson said."
"They never told me to keep it quiet but I knew if I told the world I had Parkinson's that would put Nasa in a bad place. It would make press conferences all about me, it would raise questions."
The Astronaut's Secret, Kickstarter
"What is "The Astronaut's Secret"? "The Astronaut's Secret" will be a 60 minute documentary about the life of Astronaut Rich Clifford. It will uncover how he and NASA kept his Parkinson's Disease a secret for 17 years, explore the impact of the end of the Shuttle Program on Rich's life, and follow him as he speaks nationwide about the importance of Early Detection of Parkinson's Disease."
The Astronaut's Secret, official website
Keith's note: NASA Watch readers need to fund this project. I have pledged $100. Rich has a compelling story to tell. Help him tell it.
Status: 138 BACKERS - $17,929 PLEDGED OF $48,000 GOAL - 5 DAYS TO GO
Status: 143 BACKERS - $18,679 PLEDGED OF $48,000 GOAL - 4 DAYS TO GO
Keith's note: Why is former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly still using an official NASA Twitter account ShuttleCDRKelly - with the NASA logo and links to NASA - more than a month after he retired from NASA? Do the rules apply differently to former astronauts than they do for everyone else? Anyone visiting this Twitter page would get the clear impression that Kelly still works for NASA. Yet NASA continues to allow Kelly to give that incorrect impression - even when you bring it to the agency's attention. @NASA_Astronauts follows him as well. In addition, Kelly is using a Twitter following that his webpage generated during official duty at NASA. Yet non-astronaut former NASA employees would get in big trouble if they did this after they left the agency. Double standard, anyone?
Jose Hernandez, Social Media, and Politics, earlier post
Keith's update: Mark Kelly has changed the appearance of his Twitter page so as to not make it look exactly like the official NASA Twitter page that it once was - one that was overtly promoted by NASA in press releases and updated by NASA personnel during his missions. This is what it looked like before the change. That said, Mark Kelly was prompt - and proper - in responding. Also, as a result of this posting, it is my understanding that NASA CIO and PAO have started to amend and clarify their guidelines with regard to situations such as this so as to make things clearer for others who depart the agency.
"We understand there are many programs competing for limited NASA funding; however, Commercial Crew funding must be kept as one of the top priorities if America is to retain its position as the world's number one spacefaring nation, ahead of other spaceflight powers like Russia and China. Simply put, Commercial Crew represents the most rapid way for America to get back its human space transportation capability following retirement of the Space Shuttle, and for America to end the "gap" in human spaceflight. The US will be back with its own capability soonest through Commercial Crew. Without Commercial Crew, America will be on the sidelines for years and years. And as long as America lacks a domestic means to access and maintain our $100 billion International Space Station, then we are running a risk that any setback to the Russian space program or a deterioration of US-Russian relations could force us to temporarily or perhaps permanently evacuate the American crew from the ISS."
"Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, Expedition 29 flight engineer, holds a still camera while looking through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station Space Station."
Keith's Note: If you watch the live video from the Aquarius undersea habitat you can see that the NEEMO-15 crew are currently using tablet computers. According to an interview I did a few minutes ago, NEEMO-15 crew member Astronaut Shannon Walker says that they use these tablet computers to track their mission tasks. Walker also said that there will be several tablet computers aboard the next Progress cargo flight to the International Space Station. When asked, she was not able to say what brands of tablets would be going up.
Keith's update: According to NASA Public Affairs, the Russians plan to fly two iPads on the December Progress mission as a replacement for the iPod they currently have on the ISS The only use for these two iPads will be for entertainment. The Russians have no plans to use them operationally. NASA is still reviewing other tablet systems and plans to fly at least one more next year although the brand that they will fly is still TBD.
The Astronaut's Secret, Kickstarter
"What is "The Astronaut's Secret"? "The Astronaut's Secret" will be a 30 minute documentary about the life of Astronaut Rich Clifford. It will uncover how he and NASA kept his Parkinson's Disease a secret for 17 years, explore the impact of the end of the Shuttle Program on Rich's life, and follow him as he speaks nationwide about the importance of Early Detection of Parkinson's Disease."
The Astronaut's Secret, official website
Keith's note: NASA Watch readers need to fund this project. I just donated $100. Rich has a compelling story to tell.
Keith's 14 Oct note: It would seem that NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas is rather comfortable with his China-bashing Powerpoint slide and that NASA JSC openly condones his use of it in official presentations he makes representing the agency. Check out this link - it points to the same presentation (Thomas_10-12-11.pptx) he gave a month ago - this time revised for use on 12 October 2011 on a NASA Future In Space Operations (FISO) telecon with that very same slide with Taikonauts trampling a U.S. flag on the Moon. Additional links (and audio) here.
Keith's 16 Oct note: He uses the same flag stomping picture with a slightly different caption i.e. "We must make sure this is not the metaphor of our future" vs "We must make this event inconsequential". In the audio file Thomas refers to this as the same picture he used in the earlier presentation - one that got "leaked to NASA Watch".
Bolden's rational comments are in stark contrast to the picture that astronaut Andy Thomas included in an official NASA presentation - one that showed Chinese astronauts trampling on a U.S. flag on the lunar surface. Bolden speaks of Chinese successes in space as motivations for us whereas Thomas uses overt, provocative images wherein China desecrates our flag as his motivation.
Top NASA official 'rooting for' China's success in space exploration, Daily Caller (with audio)
"We haven't talked about the Chinese," Bolden said. "We can't work with the Chinese right now. But I'm rooting for them. They're probably going to put a spacecraft called Shenzhou into orbit here, hopefully by the end of the year. It's going to be the first capsule of their space station. And the reason they are doing that is that we are not allowing them to be partners right now. So they're going alone. They need to be successful to drive us."
Keith's 16 Sep note: This presentation "Towards Deep Space Exploration: Small Steps versus One Giant Leap" (download) was presented by astronaut Andrew Thomas on 6 September 2011. There is one problem I have with this document - and it has to do with one specific graphic (page 28 - larger view). Had the author noted that China's plans for the Moon should not spur us to do things out of fear or paranoia or something like that, I'd agree. But using an image that shows a Taikonaut on the lunar surface, planting the flag of the PRC while trampling an American flag is troubling. Are there really people inside NASA who think like this - enough that they go out of their way to create and use a provocative image like this? Alas, China-hater Rep. Frank Wolf will just love this chart.
Keith's note: Why is a former NASA astronaut (i.e. employee) allowed to pose on his campaign website wearing the NASA logo? The last time I checked NASA was rather strict about the use of its logo - especially in situations where affiliations or endorsements might be implied by its use.And why is Hernandez using the same Twitter account - @Astro_Jose - with which he attracted over 200,000 followers when he was a NASA employee? (NASA's official @Astronauts account still follows @Astro_Jose). Did these followers agree to follow him because he was an astronaut or because he was going to run for Congress? the caveat "Astronaut(Ret) The opinions on this page do not reflect those of NASA" was only added after he had this huge NASA-generated following. Seems a little deceptive to me. Also ... why does his Twitter page say he lives in "Houston, TX" when he is running for a congressional seat in California?
And just in case some of you folks get on the bus to crazy town and try and read something into my comments, if I could, I'd vote for him. I just do not think NASA makes its policies clear on social media and use of NASA logos nor do I think that they apply these policies equally with regard to all of their employees - past and present.
Keith's update: I just got an email from Amber Moon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's western regional press secretary. She noted "In 2009, Hernandez flew on the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station and became the first person to tweet in Spanish from outer space." Once again it is clear that a lot of his followers on Twitter were attracted as a result of a NASA-funded activity. Amber Moon also asked NASAWatch to share this Univision story "Ex-astronaut Hernandez seeks congressional seat".
Keith's 4 Oct note: Astronaut Ron Garan recently returned to Earth. While he was on the ISS he was a rather active, creative, and effective communicator. However, the vast majority of what he sent back to Earth did not appear on a NASA.gov website. Instead, it appeared on his own effort - the officially semi-official "Fragile Oasis". Beth Beck from HEOMD runs this site. The site is operated independent of NASA PAO and of any oversight by NASA's office of communications. Contrary to established agency policy Beck decided to run it outside of the NASA portal and makes little if any effort to coordinate with the way that the rest of the agency coordinates with NASA PAO. Indeed, if you even try to find who owns the domain fragileoasis.org you are unable to do so since that information is hidden.
Now this effort has created a project wherein a Fragile Oasis Prize which is apparently going to be given out to people. Prize medals were even flown in space. According to the website: "By becoming a Fragile Oasis Crewmember, you will be able to nominate and vote on projects that you believe are making the world a better place. You can encourage those that you feel are making a difference and receive encouragement from others. You can discover people and organizations with similar goals and interests and get involved with beneficial projects."
Ron Garan did a wonderful job while he was in space as he reached out to people back on Earth - one that is worthy of emulation by future crews. It is unfortunate that Beth Beck chose to implement this project in a way that diminished its reach via the vastly more popular NASA.gov web audience.
Questions for Beth Beck:
- How much has the FragileOasis.org effort cost NASA HEOMD to date? What is the budget for this entire project?
- How long will this project continue?
- Who owns the content on this website? Who actually owns the domain FragileOasis.org?
- Which contractors have been paid to run FragileOasis.org and how much has each of them been paid?
- How were the contractors that operate FragileOasis.org selected and how is their performance on this activity tracked?
- What are the metrics you use to track FragileOasis.org effectiveness?
- What are your web traffic numbers? What is the age and geographical break down of your web traffic?
- How much web traffic did fragileoasis.org send (refer) to NASA.gov? How much web traffic did nasa.gov send to fragileoasis.org?
- What information do you retain for people who visit and join your website and is this being done in accordance with NASA/government requirements?
- How many people have signed up to "join" your website?
- What target audience(s) is this project designed to reach?
- How many times have FragileOasis.org Tweets been retweeted or mentioned?
- How many of the images and videos that Ron Garan sent back to Earth were published on a NASA.gov website?
- Why is this official (is it official?) NASA website not hosted within the NASA.gov portal?
- What are the criteria for evaluating and selecting Fragile Oasis prize winners? Who are the judges?
- How long does this FragileOasis.org competition last? How many prizes will be awarded?
- Why have there been no NASA press releases about this prize?
One last thing. Beth Beck does not like public scrutiny when it comes to questions like the ones I have asked. Not at all. Sources inside the agency report that she has formally complained to the NASA Office of General Counsel about my repeated public comments and formal inquiries about how she does her job and how her projects accomplish their intended purpose. You will recall that her disastrous NASA Buzzroom efforts were featured on NASA Watch.
Any communications or outreach person with skin this thin is most certainly in the wrong job.
Keith's 5 Oct update: I haven't heard anything from Beth Beck or anyone at HEOMD or FragileOasis.org. I did not really expect to hear anything. They also deleted the link I put to this posting on the FragileOasis Facebook page. So ... I guess I'll just submit a FOIA request - and then wait for months as they drag their feet developing a non-answer to my request.
"In early November, NASA will seek applicants for its next class of astronaut candidates who will support long-duration missions to the International Space Station and future deep space exploration activities. After applicant interviews and evaluations, NASA expects to announce the final selections in 2013, and training to begin that August."
NRC Report on NASA's Astronaut Corps Released, earlier post
"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA has poorly managed the development of these replacement radiation monitoring instruments. Specifically, total estimated ARI Project costs increased approximately 62 percent, from $16 million to $26 million; the Project has been de-scoped and will not include all planned elements; and delivery of the new instruments has been delayed by almost 3 years. In addition, until April 2010 NASA was developing an instrument that did not meet stated radiation monitoring requirements. We also found that the ISS Program has never monitored astronaut exposure to neutrons in accordance with Program requirements and had not adequately analyzed, planned, tracked, or controlled the resulting risk."
@ASTRO_RON: "How I spent my last day in space.
That's me in the cupola of the International Space Station off the coast of Australia taking my last of over 25,000 pics that I still want to share w/ everyone."
Keith's note: I am confused. Astronaut Ron Garan flies to the International Space Station and sends a non-stop stream of personal - and cool - photos back to Earth via Twitter and Twitpic. Well, these photos usually do not always end up on NASA's Human Spaceflight website but some of them appear on his personal (?) website at fragileoasis.org (the domain is registered to some anonymous individual in Bellveue, Washington) - a website that never seems to use the word "NASA" - unless you scroll to the small text at the bottom of the page with a micro NASA logo. Guess what - that link is to http://nasa.gov . Try it. It does not work. It should say http://www.nasa.gov which does work. Looks like no one bothered (or cared) to check.
Are NASA funds used to run this website? If so, then why the lack of coordination with NASA.gov?. If not, then why isn't NASA running such a high profile site that highlights such a prominent activity that its own official website seems to not want to highlight? Some (but not all) of these photos and commentary by Ron Garan also appear at NASA's blog site.
Ron Garan is a NASA civil servant who was on official duty at taxpayer expense on the ISS. We paid his airfare. We should all be seeing everything he sends back to Earth, without having to hop around various websites, right? NASA should endeavour to collect all that he sends back to Earth - in one place - so as to maximize this dissemination of information to the public. But that is not the case.
These "NASA" sites do not even link to each other. Who is in charge here? NASA PAO?, HEOMD? Ron Garan? Until NASA figures out how to coordinate its "messages" it will be hobbled by stove piping and hobby shop approaches to education and public outreach. The scattered nature of this otherwise inspiring series of photos and operations exposes just how uncoordinated NASA is these days when it comes to telling the taxpaying public what it is doing and why. And then they have the nerve to complain when the public does not seem to understand what they are doing.
Cool stuff Ron. You done good. Some of your stuff is jaw dropping. As a result, perhaps the rest of the agency can learn how to work together as one cohesive and cooperating entity in the future?
This is an awesome image worth spreading across our planet. Is it featured at NASA.gov?
Keith's note: From what I have been able to piece together HEOMD's Beth Beck (the creator of the failed NASA BuzzRoom) is behind this site. Elyse David is the "Executive Producer and Founding Crewmemeber" of Fragile Oasis according to her Twitter page. Beth Beck does more or less whatever she wants to do on this website with near zero coordination with NASA PAO. Despite multiple requests in the past for metrics and a plan for education and public outreach Beth has been unwilling/unable to provide me with anything. Yes, Ron Garan's photos and commentary have been amazing - but when they are not coordinated with NASA.gov's much larger distribution system, they suffer from less than full visibility they might otherwise attain. The net result is that NASA's limited funding for such things is not being spent in the best way possible. Once again one part of NASA simply does not care to coordinate with the other.
Keith's 16 Sep note: This presentation "Towards Deep Space Exploration: Small Steps versus One Giant Leap" (download) was presented by astronaut Andrew Thomas on 6 September 2011. Inside you will find some interesting stuff regarding the use of existing ISS and Shuttle era plus international and commercial capabilities - all matrixed together allowing us to go to new places. It also mentions problems that occur with the public and Congress when things go over budget or seem to not show any real progress or benefit, and how to use smaller steps to incrementally achieve things in space that are relevant, affordable, and show visible progress within everyone's short attention span.
Of course this is all "notional" i.e. ideas that NASA won't connect officially with any actual project or budget anywhere. But that's OK since it shows that people are thinking outside the box, cognizant of limited budgets, and aren't afraid to use old stuff for new purposes. The ideas and approach contained in this document are summarized as follows: "This is not a Program, it is not a Destination; it is a series of activities that aggregate to a deep space capability with US Leadership".
There is one problem I have with this document - and it has to do with one specific graphic (page 28 - larger view). Had the author noted that China's plans for the Moon should not spur us to do things out of fear or paranoia or something like that, I'd agree. But using an image that shows a Taikonaut on the lunar surface, planting the flag of the PRC while trampling an American flag is troubling. Are there really people inside NASA who think like this - enough that they go out of their way to create and use a provocative image like this? Alas, China-hater Rep. Frank Wolf will just love this chart.
P.S. If some graphics do not work or load it is because the original Powerpoint file's format did not exactly work perfectly for me.
Keith's update: Neither Astronaut Andy Thomas, the Astronaut Office, JSC, or NASA PAO have commented on the use of this image. One would therefore have to assume that they are afraid to comment and/or that there is tacit approval of the use of this image in official NASA presentations. None of these assumptions are remotely acceptable. So much for transparency and openness at NASA. I guess its "Lets say nothing and hope this goes away ...".
It will not go away.
NASA Needs to Preserve Skilled Astronaut Corps In Post-Shuttle Era, Says New Report
"NASA should take steps to ensure that it maintains a highly trained astronaut corps to meet International Space Station (ISS) crew requirements while accounting for unexpected attrition or demands of other missions, says a new report by the National Research Council. NASA's current plans for staffing the U.S. astronaut corps do not provide sufficient flexibility to reliably meet projected ISS mission needs."
Keith's note: A new report titled "Preparing for the High Frontier: The Role and Training of NASA Astronauts in the Post-Space Shuttle Era" has been completed by the National Research Council. The report examines staffing plans for the U.S. astronaut corps following retirement of the space shuttle and completion of the International Space Station. The report will be released on 7 September 2011 at 11 am EDT.
Keith's note:If you visit the website of author Charles Justiz you will see that a photo of an astronaut holding his latest book on the International Space Station is featured. As I mentioned last March, when this first appeared online, I was not aware that authors could get NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion and commercial "product placement" on the ISS unless there was a clear EPO tie-in, Space Act Agreement, etc. The webpage that originally featured this product endorsement was eventually pulled offline after I took note. But now the product placement photo is back. I guess the rules have changed.
Product Placement on the ISS (Update), earlier post
"Four members of the joint STS-135/Expedition 28 crews are able to spend part of their last shared time onboard the International Space Station performing floating exercises that can't be done in Earth's gravity. Inside the Harmony Node 2 module, are NASA astronauts Mike Fossum (top), Expedition 28 flight engineer, and Doug Hurley, STS-135 pilot; and Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer. The crew member at bottom is partially obscured and is unidentified."
Keith's note: What's that - you don't know what "planking" is?
"Terrence W. Wilcutt has been appointed NASA's chief of safety and mission assurance, effective Sept. 1. Wilcutt is a retired Marine colonel and veteran astronaut who is serving as director of safety and mission assurance at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He will assume the post from Bryan O'Connor, who will retire from the agency on Aug. 31. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the appointment Tuesday."
"A recent crew survey found that astronauts reported one area of spaceflight they found particularly enriching involved their perception of the Earth. The flip side to this finding is the implication that the lack of an Earth view may negatively impact crew psychological well being. To seek verification of this emotional tie to a view of our planet, my colleagues and I chose to examine available data from the Crew Earth Observations or CEO. The goal was to see if there was a correlation between crew photography and mental well being based on the frequency of self-initiated images vs. those mandated by scientific directives."
"Backlit by Earth's "day time" light, NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus, STS-135 mission specialist, gets one last visit to the Cupola onboard the International Space Station. on July 18, 2011."
Keith's note: I do not think suicide is funny - under any circumstance. Yet this photo essay makes a point - and it uses a powerful iconic image of an anonymous person in a spacesuit in an exaggerated fashion to make that point. A lot of people are rather depressed and demoralized right now with the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Entire careers have come to an abrupt end. Yet some people (including the media) have gone overboard and are waving their arms around as if NASA itself is going to disappear - and that it is deliberatley doing this to itself. Some people see humor in this photo collection. I see sadness - sadness bordering on bad taste. Suicides are often a cry for help. Slide the bar under the image to scroll through the image collection and see for yourself.
Maybe someone could come up with a more inspiring version of this photo essay - one that points to the future ahead?
Jason Silverman's note: That Astronaut Suicides photo essay was pretty disturbing. You asked for something portraying the opposite viewpoint, and I thought of sending you this collage that I made this summer. It shows how much we have to look forward to in space over the coming decade. Larger view
Prince Harry's bid for Nasa training, The Sun
"Army pilot Harry, 26, is a closet Star Trek fan and "obsessed with space", according to friends. They say he has already asked Sir Richard Branson's son Sam for a seat on one of the first Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flights. But he hopes to become an honorary member of the elite US space programme after returning from Afghanistan next year."
Keith's note: On Tuesday at 3:15 pm EDT President Obama will meet with the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the Commander of ISS Expedition 26.
"The 10 crew members aboard space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will hold a news conference at 8:24 a.m. CDT on Friday, July 15. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the 40-minute news conference."
"If there is one thing I'd say [to policymakers] it is that we need to focus our efforts. I'd appeal to Congress to focus on the long term. They need to look at the horizon - look out 10 years and see where they want the nation to be. We need a coherent space policy that will take us 10 to 15 years out - a decadal plan - and then make it a law so that we have to follow it so that Congress and future administrations are obliged to follow the policy that we, as a nation, have set forth."
The Next Space Race, Newsweek
"To get a peek at how commercial space will prepare its people, I signed up for private astronaut training, a three-day NASTAR certificate course for suborbital researchers. Founded in 2006, NASTAR began as a showcase for its parent company, Environmental Tectonics Corp., a leading maker of flight simulators. In 2010 it won Federal Aviation Administration approval for private space training, the first company to do so. The course remains optional, but regulators may require it as part of a company's license. "We're basically leaving it up to the companies," says George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA's office of commercial space transportation."
Strapping On A Centrifuge: Suborbital Scientist Training, earlier post
Retirement from United States Navy and NASA, Mark Kelly
"After some time off, I will look at new opportunities and am hopeful that one day I will again serve our country."
"Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), announced Tuesday he would retire Oct. 1.Kelly, a captain in both NASA and the Navy, has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in Arizona next year. Media reports throughout the state have said Kelly would be the leading choice for Democrats if Giffords is unable to run for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) seat. The space shuttle commander has said nothing to spark this talk, but his retirement announcement will likely increase the speculation."
Astronaut Mark Kelly; Arizona's next senator?, Washington Post
"Senator Mark Kelly? That's the question in political circles this week. The minute Kelly, 47, announced his retirement from the Navy and NASA Tuesday, the behind-the-scenes speculation that's been brewing for weeks went public: Will the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords run for office himself?"
Roundup: Obama's policy aims to revitalize space program John Holdren and Charlie Bolden
"Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan are genuine American heroes who brought immense courage and competence to the historic manned moon missions they led. Obviously, they are more than entitled to their opinions about the best way forward for America's space program today. But their opinions would be more worthy of attention if they were based on a more accurate understanding of where we are, how we got here, and how President Obama's space policy, far from "grounding" JFK's space legacy, is positioning us to revitalize it with new technology, new capabilities and new destinations ("Is Obama grounding JFK's space legacy?", The Forum, Wednesday)."
Column: Is Obama grounding JFK's space legacy?, By Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan, USA Today
"President Obama's proposed 2011 budget did not include funds for Constellation, therefore essentially canceling the program. It sent shock waves throughout NASA, the Congress and the American people. Nearly $10 billion had been invested in design and development of the program. Many respected experts and members of Congress voiced concern about the president's proposal. Some supported the president's plan,but most were critical. The supporters' biases were often evident, particularly when there was a vested or economic interest in the outcome. Obama's advisers, in searching for a new and different NASA strategy with which the president could be favorably identified, ignored NASA's operational mandate and strayed widely from President Kennedy's vision and the will of the American people."
i>"May 5, 2011 was a historic day for Bucks County as the original gondola of the Johnsville Centrifuge that was used for training America's early space heroes returned to Warminster. It had spent the last 47 years at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Suitland, Maryland. All of America's pioneering astronauts, including Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong trained at the Johnsville Centrifuge prior to their historic space missions."
"With the same spirit of innovation and grit of those early days of space flight, we now move out on an exciting path forward where we will develop the capabilities to take humans to even more destinations in the solar system. With our support and assistance, commercial companies will expand access to that rarefied area Alan Shepard first trod for America, allowing NASA to focus on those bigger, more challenging destinations and to enable our science missions to peer farther and farther beyond our solar system."
"I don't have a lot of confidence in that end of the commercial space spectrum getting us back into orbit any time soon. I'd like to hear all these folks who call themselves commercial space tell me who their investors are. Tell me where their marketplace is. A commercial venture is supposed to use private money. And who are their users? Suppose we, NASA, have no need for their services. There's no other marketplace for them. So is it really a commercial venture, or is it not? Is it a group of guys who have stars in their eyes and want to be a big space developer? I don't know."
"This notice announces a public meeting to solicit comments and information from the public on the regulatory approach to commercial orbital human spaceflight by the FAA. This public meeting is intended to aid the FAA in its regulatory effort by receiving early input from the affected community."
"In recent years excellent research has focused on suborbital demand, but few detailed studies have been available on actual market demand for orbital personal spaceflight. Additionally, the considerable change in the financial landscape since 2008 highlighted the need for up-to-date data on the demand for personal space travel, given the impact on wealthy individuals and cash availability for space tourism."
Transcendence Splashes Down, New York Magazine
"It is objectively no small feat, slipping the surly bonds of Earth. But somehow, over its 30 years of existence, NASA's Space Shuttle program has become roughly as thrilling as the Delta Shuttle. Still, there's something sad about the end of the program, which will officially shut down after Endeavour's 25th and final mission, on April 29, and one last there-and-back by Space Shuttle Atlantis in June. It's not so much that the program's increasingly prosaic missions--they have amounted, in recent years, to something like space carpooling--will be missed. The sadness instead comes from the petering out of space travel's promised transcendence."
With 'Coolest Job Ever' Ending, Astronauts Seek Next Frontier, New York Times
"What happens when you have the right stuff at the wrong time? Members of NASA's astronaut corps have been asking just that, now that the space shuttle program is ending and their odds of flying anywhere good anytime soon are getting smaller. The Endeavour is scheduled to launch this week, and the Atlantis is supposed to fly the last shuttle mission in June -- and all the seats are spoken for. "Morale is pretty low," said Leroy Chiao, a former astronaut who now works for a company that wants to offer space flights for tourists. "This is a time of great uncertainty."
Astronaut brings his problem-solving skills down to earth, Ultimate Clear Lake
"A five-time astronaut, [Scott] Parazynski said he's especially eager to tackle projects in the fields of minimally invasive surgery and nanomedicine, with its potential to use targeted drugs to destroy tumors and plaques in arteries. Some inspiration, he admits, comes from Star Trek. "I'm hoping to leverage my background to create the next generation of minimally invasive surgery and diagnostic tools," Parazynski said. "As a physician growing up and watching Star Trek, we all wanted a medical tricorder. So one of the things I'd love to do is think big and push the envelope on what is possible." For those who don't grok Spock, a "tricorder "is a fictional device that can scan a person and immediately diagnose a disease or injury."
Image: Scott Parazynski in May 2009 using a Jaz spectroradiometer from Ocean Optics at Everest Base Camp to measure solar irradiance [See "Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest"]
Former NASA Astronaut John Mike Lounge Dies
"Former NASA astronaut John Mike Lounge, 64, died Tuesday morning. All of us at the Johnson Space Center are deeply saddened by the passing of former astronaut Mike Lounge, said Michael Coats, Director, Johnson Space Center. I personally had the pleasure of working with Mike in one capacity or another for more than 30 years. He had an unwavering love of country and dedication to our nations space program, as evidenced by a sterling career as a naval aviator and astronaut, and veteran of three space shuttle missions. His many friends at Johnson are thinking of Mikes family during this difficult time."
"Mike was a tremendous supporter of the commercial spaceflight industry. The last year and a half he put in countless volunteer hours to support and advocate for all that we are trying to achieve. He was a good friend with a big heart, and he will be missed tremendously. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time."
"Shipman was 29 when she met astronaut Bill Oefelein at an Orlando, Fla., house party. Little did she know that the 2006 encounter would do more than just begin an other-worldly relationship. It also would kick-start a chain of events that would land her in the middle of a bizarre astronaut love triangle. For the first time, she is sharing her story of the events with "20/20."
"Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will fly the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission in April, according to a source familiar with the decision."
"NASA astronaut Mark Kelly will resume training as commander of the STS-134 space shuttle mission on Monday, Feb. 7. With the exception of some proficiency training, Kelly has been on personal leave since Jan. 8 to care for his wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in a Tucson, Ariz. shooting."
"NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), seriously injured during the Tucson shooting rampage last month, also spoke briefly at the breakfast and gave the closing prayer."
Leland D. Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education: "As an astronaut, I have a deep connection to the honor and legacy that the Challenger Center for Space Education represents. A theme is evident in both the Challenger Center's mission and the President's Day of Remembrance remarks: triumph from tragedy. These words exemplify the resilience, purpose, and optimism that led to the creation of the Challenger Centers. The Challenger Centers and NASA also have similar values in terms of education, and these goals align with my own personal commitment."
"Some 4 million students have been through the program since 1986, and in recent years the annual average has been about 400,000. Scott Parazynski, a NASA astronaut and medical doctor who took over in November as chairman of the center's board of directors, wants to increase that number to 4 million per year by 2015. ...
Parazynski: "One of the things we're aspiring to do is reduce the barriers to entry. So to help communities that might otherwise not have access to a learning center, we will develop virtual missions led by Challenger Center flight directors remotely, using a school's computer laboratory as an example. Alternatively, we also hope to bring in portable learning centers that we would truck in from a distant location."
"The astronaut husband of a U.S. congresswoman seriously wounded when she was shot in head will decide by mid-February whether to join the last NASA shuttle launch as scheduled, the space agency said on Sunday."
"Mark is still the commander," said Peggy A. Whitson, the chief astronaut, but she said that having a backup commander would allow the crew to continue training and Captain Kelly to "focus on his wife's care."
Scott Parazynski, Chairman of the Challenger Center Board of Directors sitting in the jetstream on the summit of Mt. Everest, May 2009: "I tied off a pair of flags I'd made to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who had perished in the line of duty (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11), as I could think of no finer place on Earth to hang them. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, like their Tibetan prayer flag counterparts, they will weather under the wind, sun and snow, and slowly lift back up into the heavens." More photos.