Recently in Culture Category

Keith's note: I saw this TV ad for Bayer aspirin the other day featuring a window washer. I found the commentary to be interesting. Usually TV ads are not very deep intellectually. Having done window washing exactly once on a much smaller building (only 6 stories) when I was in my first rock climbing phase in college in the 70s, (and having climbed things 10 times higher years later when I worked at NASA) I can relate to what the guy in the ad is saying about doing this for a living:

"The first time that I was up on a high rise cleaning a window I was terrified. But once I made it to the ground I was stoked. I needed to do it again. That moment when you are going over the edge is like getting on the rocket that is going to Mars. You need to be clear minded. I have to feel my best to be able to do my best ..."

NASA is constantly trying to better convey to people just what it is that the agency does to be relevant to their daily lives. Sometimes they get it right. More often NASA is really only talking to itself and misses the mark entirely. Assuming that this window washer is more or less speaking honestly from his own experience, he's relating how he does a risk/benefit analysis every day. Sound familiar? And his way of expressing it to others has to do with what he imagines an astronaut goes through. I wonder how many other seemingly commonplace occupations share these similarities - if only NASA would seek them out.

There's a lot of talk during election time of "flyover country" or the "99%" - in other words the majority of people who usually do not figure into all of the rhetoric. Perhaps if NASA started to listen to people outside of the usual suspects that they usually cater to they might find memes and messages that they can use to better explain what NASA does and why it does these things. In the process, perhaps NASA itself can better understand what it is doing and maybe how they might tweak these things so as to be more relatable to the people who pay for all the shiny rockets. Just sayin'

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/candorville.jpg

Larger image at Candorville.

Keith's note: Recently-confirmed NASA CFO Jeff DeWit made a campaign video in 2014 singing Karaoke over a Disney song. Let's hope he does one at NASA too. Maybe he can cover this Bill Murray classic.

P.S. DeWit was sworn in today.

Keith's note: Former Senator, Geologist, and Apollo 17 Astronaut Jack Schmitt spoke at an event in Washington, DC today on lunar exploration. I can recall sitting in a Senate hearing in 1978 hearing Sen. Schmitt worrying about this topic, saying "we are eating our seed corn". His concern is even more poignant now.

ICE spokesman resigns, citing fabrications by agency chief, Sessions about California immigrant arrests, Washington Post

"A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned over what he described as "false" and "misleading" statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE acting director Thomas D. Homan. James Schwab worked out of the agency's San Francisco office until he abruptly quit last week. ... "I quit because I didn't want to perpetuate misleading facts," Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn't agree with that. Then I took some time, and I quit."

Keith's note: James Schwab worked for a number of years at NASA Ames PAO. I got to know him during his time at NASA. I have to assume that his NASA tenure helped to fortify his propensity to tell the truth - no matter what.

Keith's note: This video is a re-imagining of the classic scene from the 1981 feature "Heavy Metal". This time the Corvette is piloted by astronaut David Bowman from "2001: A Space Odyssey". Sorry Elon, but Bowman is cooler than Starman. I'm sure Hal would agree.

Let's talk about Elon Musk launching his Tesla into space, Planetary Society

" What is worth considering is the Tesla as a case study for future commercial space ventures. We've reached the point where individuals like Elon Musk and Peter Beck - in this case, two wealthy, white men - can make unilateral statements for humanity in space."

Keith's note: Given the management and public outreach style of Bill Nye at the Planetary Society this is an odd comment for the organization to make. To be certain, the space community needs MUCH more diversity since the people who pay the bills and benefit from space are very diverse. But for an organization led by an outspoken rich famous white guy to be critical of 2 other outspoken rich famous white guys is hypocritical.

Two Lessons From Starman

NASA's Quest for Human Spaceflight Popular Appeal, Roger Lanius, Social Science Quarterly

"Objective: Analyze NASA's efforts to "sell" both its mission and its successes from its origins in 1958 to the present.

Methods: Use public opinion polling and qualitative sources to establish change over time.

Results: Study suggests that NASA's public support was less important than most have previously asserted, and that the overall activities of NASA have been advanced by a small base of supporters, challenged by a small group of opponents, and sustained by a larger number of people who accept a status quo in space exploration.

Conclusion: A general public lack of support for expending many dollars on spaceflight has been a fundamental reality of NASA since its beginning. It is not changing, and probably not changeable, in the predictive future. Accordingly, NASA's quest for human spaceflight's popular appeal remains an elusive goal."

Jim bridenstine, donald trump's choice to lead nasa back to the moon, has a new take on climate change -- quartz, Hearthstone

"Earliest now (November. one), senator Value Admiral leveled a liberal onslaught: You are categoric, very factious, and as well ultimate, with a legend of quizzical clime body of knowledge, advocating one-sidedness off LGBT Americans, and herself offensive mankind ilk quondam chairman Barack Obama and senator Bathroom McCain. He wasn't conversation astir chairman Donald Announce global warming and climate change pdf. Admiral was conversation astir Donald Trump's pick to first place NASA, typical Jim Bridenstine, a even-youthful 42 yr-ancient with a cherish championing aerospace. A earlier Naval flyer elective in 2012 to symbolize Oklahoma in Relation, Bridenstine prefab his alias as a devoted counsel of right scheme what is global warming pdf file. He streptopelia into dispute upon migration, condition moderate, and federal fastness, and united the Discretion Caucus, a assortment of adult Republicans who fight not good Democrats on the other hand whatever Politician chieftain search two-party center loam."

Keith's note: This is what happens when an Indian text generator bot with a poor English module tries to autowrite an article on the next NASA administrator and then autotweets it through a Twitter bot. Or, better yet, this article has been cycled back and forth through an autotranslator bot between one language and another multple times with new translation errors piled on top of previous translation errors - and is then tweeted out by a bot that says it is in the Cayman Islands.

Actually this is all about click bait that sends you to a landing site with ads. Every time someone visits the ad gets seen. There are just enough words in what appear to be sentences to fool the search bots. But there are more sophisticated bots out there that actually write news stories automatically and in many cases you have no idea that you are reading something written by a non-fuman. It is going to become increasingly common to see news stories that have never been touched by human hands, so to speak.

Keith's note: Fast forward to 28:45 for an interview with deaf student astronaut Julia Velasquez in ASL who is currently at HI-SEAS Mars analog habitat in Hawaii. In a previous life I worked as a professional Sign Language interpreter so I think this is especially cool. Another language that may one day be used in space? I used to go snorkeling with one of my deaf roommates. We used to have perfectly normal conversations underwater except that they caused us to move our bodies. When I flew on ZeroG parabolic flight I started to sign to myself in an exaggerated fashion. If I was already rotating what I said in sign language affected my rotation. I also signed to myself when I was in the NASTAR centrifuge at 3Gs - because I could (with my 200 pound arms). Anyone who has gone SCUBA diving knows that there are a bunch of hand signs you use in certain situations. But they are very limited. How do you communicate in space if your radio is dead? I can imagine that people living in zeroG for prolonged periods will develop their own unique art forms - and there is an obvious overlap between sign language, song, dance, and acrobatics - especially when you remove the downward pull of gravity. Maybe Andy Weir can write a book about that. Just sayin'

Robonaut-2 Says "Hello world" in American Sign Language From the ISS, SpaceRef (2012)

"On 13 March 2012, NASA's Robonaut-2 said "hello world" in American Sign Language (ASL) from the International Space Station. I am told that the idea for this came from my suggestion posted on NASA Watch several months ago (below). How cool."

First International Comparative List of Astronomical Words In Sign Languages

"The first international comparative list of astronomical words in sign languages is now available. As part of this proposal, the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Astronomy for Sign Languages has been translated into English and Spanish and is now available online. This is the result of a long-term project developed by the IAU Commission C1 Education and Development of Astronomy and its WG3 Astronomy for Equity and Inclusion. The new list currently includes 47 words most commonly used in education."

CDC gets list of forbidden words: fetus, transgender, diversity, Washington Post

"The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation's top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year's budget. Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based." In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of "science-based" or "evidence-based," the suggested phrase is "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered."

After report on CDC's forbidden words policy draws outrage, HHS pushes back, Stat

A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department said Saturday the agency remains committed to the use of outcomes data and scientific evidence in its decisions, pushing back on the characterization of a Washington Post report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now banned from using words like "science-based" and "transgender" in budget documents. The spokesman, Matt Lloyd, didn't respond to follow-up questions about whether the policy might apply more broadly, now or in the future, to other HHS agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration or the National Institutes of Health. A separate FDA spokeswoman said earlier on Saturday that the FDA hasn't yet received or implemented a policy to avoid certain words in budget or policy work.

Keith's note: What science-related words might be banned at NASA? "Science-based" or "evidence-based" seem to be natural ones since CDC can't use them. "Climate change" is also a no-brainer since NASA studies a planet called Earth and NOAA and EPA have already had some guidance on that. With regard to Astrobiology "origin and evolution of life" might be a ripe target too. On the other hand, maybe we'll get lucky and NASA will be forced to stop saying "notional" on every powerpoint slide they show and say "we're just guessing" instead.

Thinking Of Sir Arthur C. Clarke On His 100th Birthday

"Today would have been Sir Arthur C. Clarke's 100th birthday. Arthur C. Clarke has had more influence on me as a writer than just about anyone else has - and it started at a very early age. ... In the early 1990s I was a NASA employee and served as Payload Accommodations Manager for the 2.5 meter Centrifuge Facility that we planned to attach to Space Station Freedom (you call it ISS now). Eventually it was dropped by the program. At every possible opportunity I would sneak in gag charts showing the crew of Discovery from the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" inside the "25 meter centrifuge" and then say "oops, wrong chart"."

Rocket Boys in Carbon Creek

Rocket Boys, Vulcans, and Wandering Apollo Rockets, SpaceRef

"I first wrote this for StarTrek's official website in 2002 the day after the "Enterprise" episode "Carbon Creek" first aired. The story was clearly inspired by my friend Homer Hickam's book "Rocket Boys" Well, that episode was on TV last night. Curiously, after 15 years, and several pivots, NASA seems to be moving back toward the Moon again (which happens to be my favorite destination for human exploration as well as Homer's) and interstellar object 1I/'Oumuamua (previously A/2017 U1) is passing through our solar system - echoes of the plot of yet another Star Trek tale i.e. "Star Trek First Contact". Within - and below - my article are references to thinking that was on everyone's mind as talk of going back to the Moon and on to Mars was on everyone's mind. This was a few months before the loss of Columbia and more than a year before President Bush announced the "Vision for Space Exploration"."

Please stop annoying this NASA scientist with your ridiculous Planet X doomsday theories

"David Morrison is a real NASA scientist who studies real planets and makes real discoveries about the real universe. Unfortunately for him, Morrison's duties also include debunking perennial Internet theories that a fake planet is about to destroy the Earth, which was supposed to happen in 2003, then 2012, then Sept. 23, then October - and now the world is supposed to end again some time Sunday. And the astronomer sounds like he's just about had it. "You're asking me for a logical explanation of a totally illogical idea," Morrison said on this week's SETI Institute podcast, after the hosts asked for his take on third scheduled apocalypse in three months. "There is no such planet, there never has been, and presumably there never will be - but it keeps popping up over and over."

Keith's note: Please let me know on Monday if the world ends on Sunday so I can update this post.

In emails, NASA denies child slave ring on Mars, confirms politician-eating tentacle monster on Europa, Muckrock

"Back in July, (alleged) former Central Intelligence Agency officer and one-time Reform Party presidential nominee Robert David Steele appeared on Alex Jones' InfoWars to voice a pet canard: he claims that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had a colony of child slaves on Mars. The Daily Beast reached out to NASA to respond. The agency confirmed with barely concealed irritation that it does not, in fact, have a colony of child slaves on Mars."

Goofy Mars Conspiracies Part 2 (Update), earlier post (July 2017)

Keith's note: I was just interviewed by BBC Live at Five about this nonsense. Audio below.

An Astronaut Takes A Knee

Keith's note: Leland posted this letter using his real name. I edit and comment on this site using my real name. Yet some of you are sniping at Leland and you do so while hiding behind fake names.

Full Letter

"I served my country not in the military but as 1 of 362 American Astronauts that have explored the universe to help advance our civilization. Not just Americans but all humans. I also was briefly in the NFL and stood for the National Anthem with my hand over my heart. What makes us great is our differences and respecting that we are all created equally even if not always treated that way. Looking back at our planet from space really helps one get a bigger perspective on how petty and divisive we can be. Donald Trump maybe you should ask your good friend Mr. Putin to give you a ride on a Soyuz rocket to our International Space Station and see what it's like to work together with people we used to fight against, where your life depends on it. See the world and get a greater sense of what it means to be part of the human race, we call it the Orbital Perspective."

Getting NASA to Comply With Simple FOIA Requests Is a Nightmare

"Trying to effectively use the Freedom of Information Act can be hell. Maybe a police department will demand a ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary fee to collect records, or perhaps an agency simply won't respond to requests. Judging by Motherboard's own requests as well as those from Freedom of Information organizations, one government body in particular stands out for turning FOIA requests into a nightmare: NASA. Trying to effectively use the Freedom of Information Act can be hell. Maybe a police department will demand a ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary fee to collect records, or perhaps an agency simply won't respond to requests. Judging by Motherboard's own requests as well as those from Freedom of Information organizations, one government body in particular stands out for turning FOIA requests into a nightmare: NASA."

- NASA FOIA Follies Continue, earlier post
- Why Does it Take 2 Years For GSFC To Respond to a FOIA Request?, earlier post
- Never Ask NASA a Simple Question, earlier post
- NASA Refuses To Accept Its Own News Media Accreditation (Update), earlier post
- In Search Of A CASIS Report Card, earlier post

Yes, it really has taken NASA 11 years to develop a parachute, Ars Technica

"After the Jacobs tour, I put this question to [NASA Acting Chief Technologist Douglas] Terrier. He did not flinch. "I think it's a very fair question," he said. "I think it's a very fair debate to ask if we as a nation are serious about this, and making it a priority. What we've enjoyed is a very constant level of support, but it's certainly not the Apollo or Manhattan-type project to crank this thing out in seven years." That is not to say that NASA, or its large contractor base, is less able than it was in the 1960s. Far from it, Terrier said. "I think it's important to realize that the team and the technology and manufacturing base is very capable of doing that, the moment someone flicks that switch. The speed at which we're moving is not limited by the capability of NASA or the contractors; it is limited by the resources and, frankly, the political emphasis."

Keith's update: Of course no one at NASA will entertain the counter argument that NASA has been dragging its feet while the real world passes it by. Just sayin'

New survey highlights gender, racial harassment in astronomy and planetary science, AGU

"In a survey of workplace experiences among astronomy and planetary science professionals, about 40 percent of women of color reported feeling unsafe in their workplace because of their gender, while 28 percent feel unsafe due to their race. About 13 percent of the survey's female respondents reported skipping at least one class, meeting, fieldwork opportunity or other professional event for this reason. Some men of color also skipped events as a result of hearing racist comments at school or work, according to a new study detailing the survey's results in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a journal of the American Geophysical Union."

Survey reveals widespread bias in astronomy and planetary science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"In an online survey about their workplace experiences, 88 percent of academics, students, postdoctoral researchers and administrators in astronomy and planetary science reported hearing, experiencing or witnessing negative language or harassment relating to race, gender or other physical characteristics at work within the last five years. Of the 423 respondents, 39 percent reported having been verbally harassed and 9 percent said they had suffered physical harassment at work."

- Harassment in Space Science and Astronomy (Update), earlier post
- Under-representation at Astronomy Conferences, earlier post
- Inclusive Astronomy, earlier post

NASA Denies That It's Running a Child Slave Colony on Mars, Daily Beast

"A report on Alex Jones' InfoWars claiming child sex slaves have been kidnapped and shipped to Mars is untrue, NASA told The Daily Beast on Thursday. "There are no humans on Mars. There are active rovers on Mars. There was a rumor going around last week that there weren't. There are," Guy Webster, a spokesperson for Mars exploration at NASA, told The Daily Beast. "But there are no humans."

Keith's note: President Trump is a big fan of this website, so I guess NASA needs to update its teen outreach (and capture) programs.

Keith's update: I was just interviewed by BBC Live at Five about this nonsense. Audio below.



The Wild Conspiracy Theory That NASA Is Faking Its Mars Rover Missions In Canada, Mashable

"Apparently, a lot of people are convinced that NASA's Mars missions are a big hoax, and that the space agency's rovers are actually sending back photos from an island in Canada. Obviously NASA says this is complete nonsense. The conspiracy theory has been making the rounds for at least two years, with YouTube videos and blog posts on fringe websites arguing that NASA is faking the images on Devon Island."

Keith's note: I have been to Devon Island 3 times - twice for a month at a time. That's me posing with a Mars "rover" on Devon Island. His name was Quimmiq. Sorry conspiracy loons, no faked Mars rover pics.

Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop gets called out by NASA over healing stickers, CNN Money

"NASA just called out Goop, the movie star's lifestyle brand, over wearable healing stickers that it promoted on its website. In a post on Thursday, Goop said that the stickers, which are sold by a group called Body Vibes, are "made with the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut's vitals during wear." The wearables, which cost about $60 for a pack of 10, come "pre-programmed to an ideal frequency" and "promote healing" by tackling "imbalances," the website claimed. But NASA told CNNMoney it doesn't use carbon material to line its suits, and its current spacesuit has no carbon fibers in it at all."

Body Vibes

"Body Vibes use an exclusive material originally developed for NASA. This waterproof, carbon fiber compound can hold specific frequency charges that naturally stimulate the human body's receptors."

A revolution is brewing: observations of TRAPPIST-1 exoplanetary system fosters a new biomarker, physics.pop-ph

"One of the key questions that has arisen in recent times is the boundaries of the Habitable Zone, classically defined as the range of orbital distances in a stellar system where surface liquid water could be stable (Kasting et al. 1993). It is, however, seldom addressed how this concept might become obsolete in exoplanetary worlds where the priorities for living a good life are different than getting liquid water everywhere and at all times (Kim Kardashian, personal communication). A groundbreaking paper to that respect is the study by Kane and Zelsiz (2014) which demonstrated that the existing concepts about the Hab- itable Zone completely overlooked the risk posed by Zombie attacks."

Read the paper

Keith's note: Here's the really creepy thing ... the Planetary Society's Twitter page says "Co-founded by Sagan. Led by Nye. Forward with you. We advocate for space, create our own missions and educate the world." Wait a minute. The Planetary Society was co-founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Lou Friedman. But now this is all about equating Carl Sagan and Bill Nye and demoting Murray and Friedman. I'm sorry but there is no comparison between Sagan and Nye.

The NASA-Hollywood Bromance, Mens Journal

"Of course, not every film gets approval. You won't see any official NASA logos in Life, for example, about a martian life-form terrorizing the space-station crew. "It is not the kind of story that we wanted to tell," says [Bert] Ulrich. NASA's general policy is that a film needs to have a NASA story line in it, with clear value to the agency."

Life Movie Clip Has Ryan Reynolds & Crew Against an Alien Attack, MovieWeb

"Sony Pictures released this clip online and it gives us our first very good look at the terrifying, yet unassuming looking alien that will be terrorizing the suspiciously good-looking crew of astronauts in Life. In the video, we get to see the first ... The clip is super tense and doesn't give away too much, but definitely shows us that this exciting and groundbreaking discovery won't be all peaches and roses. It might actually result in lots of dead astronauts."

King for a Day, Wayne Hale

"Many of my old friends and colleagues are asking me a question these days: "If you were NASA Administrator, what would you have the agency do?" I know what they want to hear: Moon, Mars, or Asteroid - what is the next destination for human spaceflight? But that is not the answer I would give. Whatever 'horizon goal' is established, without significant organizational and cultural changes at NASA, the chance for success is in doubt. To make NASA into the extraordinarily effective organization it once was and could be again will require significant work to transform it. NASA is filled with extremely smart, highly motivated individuals who are the experts in their fields. They can do amazing things. Measured against any other organization - government or commercial - the NASA civil service and contractor work force is outstanding in terms of inherent capabilities and the desire to make their projects successful. But success in NASA's endeavors is hobbled by three structural and cultural problems: (1) inter-center rivalry, (2) mind numbing bureaucracy, and (3) a paralyzing cultural requirement for perfection in all things."

CBS Picks Up Dana Klein/Mark Feuerstein Comedy, Andy Weir NASA Drama To Pilot, Deadine

"Written by Weir, Mission Control revolves around the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists who juggle their personal and professional lives during a critical mission with no margin for error."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO NASA has been approached by the show's producers and they are waiting on a script for final consideration. At this point NASA has not committed to assist the producers, allow use of its logo, facilities, staff etc.

Keith's note: Explore Mars had a "leadership dinner" in Washington, DC tonight. This is a group photo (larger image) posted on Facebook. Here we go again. Another space group has a meeting. Guess who shows up: One female, nine males (mostly older white guys). This is not remotely representative of who will - should - explore Mars. The folks at Explore Mars mean well. But this event is representative of a much more pervasive issue in the space advocate community - lack of diversity. Until the usual suspects in the space advocate leadership clique get the message that they need to be far more representative of the taxpayers/citizenry who will pay for their party their impact will be minimal - at best. More choir practice in an echo chamber.

Keith's update: I am told by a participant in this event that this was a "[this was a] random group based on availability. [The] president of the organization is a woman and two of the Board of Advisers are women (and another one pending), none of whom were present." That said, the gender and age imbalance is still unrepresentative of the real world and will continue to be so - until the space crowd gets the message that they need to reflect the reality of the world around them - not the one they imagine inside their heads.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: I'll grab Trump by the crotch when I meet him, The Hill

"Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says he wants to use an unusual greeting when he meets President-elect Donald Trump. "When I meet President Trump, I may first grab his crotch - to get his attention - then discuss Science with him," Tyson tweeted Friday afternoon."

Neil deGrasse Tyson Tweets That He Will Grab Donald Trump's Crotch Inverse

"As it were, though, the only thing Tyson is going to be grabbing is attention, since this provocative tweet is just another illustration that the scientist has become a victim of his own celebrity."

Keith's note: Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and Board member Neil deGrasse Tyson were frequent visitors to the Obama White House. Alas, it would seem that the Planetary Society's access to the White House is coming to an abrupt end - especially when a board member makes a crude comment such as this. Bill Nye was trying to get Trump to meet with him too just the other day. No more selfies with POTUS.

For Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, fiery populism followed life in elite circles, Washington Post

"In the early 1990s, he and [Julia] Jones, a screenwriter, struck up a conversation in a restaurant and decided to try their hand at adapting Bannon's idea for a version of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" set in space. That script went nowhere, but the two went on to work on dozens of film and television projects together."

Titus Andronicus, Wikipedia

"Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593, probably in collaboration with George Peele. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the 16th century."

Trump's Chief Strategist Appointee Once Ran Biosphere II Project, earlier post

Keith's note: I try and go out for a 4-5 mile walk daily in the early afternoon. Today it was cooler and windier than it was earlier this week so I grabbed a dark, long sleeve t-shirt at random. At one point three young boys - perhaps 8-9 years old approached me. I was talking on the phone so I was not really looking at them. Just as they passed me I heard one of them yell "NASA!!". How strange. After a second I realized that they had seen the small 1.5 inch diameter NASA logo on my t-shirt. I turned around and gave them a thumbs up - and one of the boys responded. You may recall that I posted a picture on Monday of a man holding his young son. I had spotted the telltale aft end of a Space Shuttle in the boy's hand from a distance. I learned from his Dad that he had just seen his first space shuttle at the Udvar Hazy facility a few miles away near Dulles airport. Both of these encounters happened within 20 feet of each other at the corner of Center Harbor Road and Wiehle Avenue in Reston, VA, a very short distance from Buzz Aldrin Elementary School, at almost the exact same time of day.

Coincidence - or proof of NASA's pervasive brand recognition? Or is Buzz hiding in the bushes whispering things to people walking by?

NASA Langley Flexes Creative Muscle at Innovation Day

"Panelist Karen Freidt, creativity and innovation program manager at Langley, introduced herself and immediately asked audience members to stand up, spread their arms wide, slam them back together, then shout at the top of their lungs."

Keith's note: So ... now there will be sanctioned shouting at NASA LaRC, I guess. Usually, when people start to shout at each other at work, less creativity is the net result. When I worked at NASA such behavior would have been called "harassment" - or at least "unprofessional".

Oh yes, for some reason Karen's name tag says "Bob".

The people who talk about "innovation" at NASA at these goofy, adult play-time events are rarely the people who actually innovate. When will this faux innovation stuff come to an end? NASA really needs to start taking itself much more seriously than fostering this internal feel-good nonsense.

Keith's note: I went out for my daily walk today. Half a block away from Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in Reston, Virginia I saw a couple with their young boy. He was holding something very familiar. Those three engines and the delta wing shape - instantly recognizable. I asked his parents if I could take a picture. They had gone to the National Air and Space Museum at Udvar Hazy today. Their son was very impressed with Space Shuttle Discovery - his first spaceship - but was "too shy" to say so according to his mom. I said "my friends flew on it - isn't that cool?" The boy smiled. I walked away, turned and told their parents about my website. Within a minute I tweeted his picture. How cool that I could say such a thing. Just another day.

Building an Inclusive AAS - The Critical Role of Diversity and Inclusion Training for AAS Council and Astronomy Leadership

"Diversity, equity and inclusion are the science leadership issues of our time. As our nation and the field of astronomy grow more diverse, we find ourselves in a position of enormous potential and opportunity: a multitude of studies show how groups of diverse individuals with differing viewpoints outperform homogenous groups to find solutions that are more innovative, creative, and responsive to complex problems, and promote higher-order thinking amongst the group. Research specifically into publications also shows that diverse author groups publish in higher quality journals and receive higher citation rates."

How Do You Make the Fake NASA Documentary Operation Avalanche? Hire a Really Good Lawyer, Wired

"As to NASA, well, the agency isn't too happy. In a statement, it says the "the film project was misrepresented" to the Science and Entertainment Exchange and to NASA, which supports more than 100 films each year. "We are disappointed the filmmakers would exploit the openness and transparency of those involved," the agency says. That might explain why no one at NASA accepted Johnson's invitation to see the film when it played at South by Southwest."

The director who fooled NASA into helping make fake moon-landing movie 'Operation Avalanche', Mashable

"After making a name for himself in the independent film world with The Dirties, Canadian director Matt Johnson is back with Operation Avalanche, a faux documentary about four CIA agents who go undercover inside NASA, where they make a startling discovery about the space agency's ability to put a man on the moon. And the way they did it is some real tinfoil-hat stuff: Johnson and his cohorts told NASA they were student filmmakers looking to do a documentary on the Apollo program. NASA was all too happy to oblige, giving them access to NASA officials conversations that were recorded and edited to fit the secret concept and facilities. Operation Avalanche debuted at Sundance earlier this year and has been making the rounds at film festivals. Lionsgate Premiere releases the low-budget thriller (the largely improvised film is presented in grainy 16mm to make it feel more authentic) on Friday, and it's worth a look, if only to see how Johnson and his collaborators talked their way inside the hallowed walls of NASA."

'Operation Avalanche': A Fake Documentary About A Faked Moon Landing, NPR

"To film this adventure, Johnsonwith collaborators Owen Williams and Josh Bolesreally did infiltrate NASA, telling the agency he was a student filmmaker shooting a documentary about the space race. No one at the research-rigorous center bothered to Google him, apparently, or they would have found a man with a history of video pranks. (The candid-camera approach may help explain why no one in the film talks like they're in the 1960s. Johnson and company likely had to keep up appearances in front of present-day NASA staff.)"

Sneaking into NASA and other money-saving strategies from the set of 'Operation Avalanche', Business Journal

"Think about it: Just from a raw economics point of view, how the hell are we going to rebuild all that [stuff] in a credible way?" he told me. "There's no way that we're going to rebuild the outside of Shepperton Studios or even anything that looked like Shepperton studios. We just would have had to cut it from the script. The same with NASA."

Keith's note: Rich people giving each other awards. I rented the National Air & Space Museum - twice - for NASA In the late 80s as a NASA contractor employee. I have been to a bunch of them over the years. I know what these receptions cost. This one was easily $50K - and most of the money went to caterers. To his credit, Jeff Bezos gave his $250,000 award to SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) - an organization that Bezos once belonged to as a student. If only these rich people could skip the overhead that goes with these dress-up events and write checks to organizations that matter. The cost of this reception alone could have put someone through college. I get invited to this thing every year and refuse to attend.

The space community has convinced itself that it needs to have parties like this to make themselves feel good about whatever it is they do. Instead of receptions in fancy museums in DC why not write the checks that would pay for that party to fund students, small start-ups, and other "little" things that will have an actual difference. 99.999% of americans have no idea who the space elite are or what they do. Regular folks worry about their jobs and their kids' future. The space community needs to pivot away from this self-indulgence and focus on the taxpayers who pay for all of their toys. As long as the populace sees no clear value to space exploration and has no personnel connection to it they are not going to rise up to save it when budgets start to get thin.

One candidate for the presidency has wondered aloud whether potholes and crumbling infrastructure should be given priority over more funds for NASA. To be honest, in the minds of the vast majority rational folks who work hard every day to feed their families, better roads to cut their commuting times are far more likely to be seen as having an effect on their lives than some rocket to another planet. And yet the space people have big parties that they invite one another to.

This must have been what it was like when Rome was burning.

Keith's note: Someone just sent this to me - they found it on a bulletin board at the NASA center where they work. For a moment, as I started to read it, I thought it was legit. Then it became clear that it was not. Then I looked at the date on the letter. Lets just say that this letter is not real but given the way that this election has devolved since it was written it probably should be true. The original faux letter is presented below. The original can be downloaded here.

Keith's note: I wondering why a non-profit organization like the Planetary Society overtly promotes the for-profit Netflix activities of its paid CEO Bill Nye.

Keith's 8 August update: NASA MissionSTEM Summit 2016: Opening Session and Keynote Address - Live 9:30 -11:00 am EDT. No mention is made of this event or the opening webcast at NASA.gov, NASA's education website, or NASA's event calendar. Its almost as it NASA overtly decided not to tell anyone that this event is happening.

Oh yes: NASA TV actually cut off Tina Tchen from the White House in mid-sentence at 11:00 am EDT to show clouds from space.

Not My Job: NASA's Charles Bolden Gets Quizzed On 'Charles In Charge', NPR

"SAGAL: Really? And what did you say from Mars?
BOLDEN: I have no idea.
SAGAL: You don't know?
BOLDEN: No. I don't remember.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: Really?
SAGAL: You're...
BOLDEN: It was like we...
SAGAL: You recorded the...
BOLDEN: ...Come in peace or something like that."

and

"BOLDEN: We're going to Mars in the 2030s. So we've got the vehicle called - we're going to name it but right now we call it the Space Launch System. It's a heavy lift launch vehicle."

Space Sells in India

Keith's note: This TV commercial is titled "Astronaut lachaar, khatam hua aachar". You have to watch the entire thing to figure out what it is selling. Its hilarious.

Orlando and the miraculously bad timing of the NASA-UAE Space Agency deal, op ed, Danny Bednar, Space News

"On Sunday, June 12, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was in Abu Dhabi finalizing an agreement with the chairman of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency Khalif Al Romaithi. The deal is also significant in that on the same day in which hatred and bigotry lead to the senseless death of 50 innocent people inside an LGBTQ Orlando nightclub, the leaders of a federal agency (with deep ties to the state of Florida) essentially said that in the desire to explore space, with the best science and technology humanity can develop, it is A-OK to overlook archaic laws regarding homosexuality and LGBTQ rights."

Canadian astronaut offers to help UAE's space aspirations, The National (2014)

"A Canadian astronaut, whose social-media postings from the international space station inspired millions, has offered to consult with authorities here about setting up a space agency. Chris Hadfield, who had an instrumental role in the formation of the Canadian space agency, has spent the past four days visiting Emirati engineers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. On Monday he gave a talk at President Sheikh Khalifa's majlis in the capital. The UAE last week announced its intention to set up a space agency and launch an orbital probe to Mars by 2021. "It's going to take a lot of international cooperation in order to make that work," said Mr Hadfield. "Hopefully it's an opportunity for Canada and the UAE to work together."

Keith's 13 June note: It is repugnant to see people lazily conflating the devastating, bigotry-centric tragedy in Orlando, by virtue of a coincidence of the calendar, with a totally unrelated government-to-government activity planned months ago so as to score a political point - and impugning the motives of an entire space agency in so doing. In addition it is the height of hypocrisy to see someone complain about another nation's space agency for things that their own country's agency has embraced. Danny Bednar (a Canadian) apparently thinks it was OK for canadian space legend Chris Hadfield to visit UAE in 2014 to help set up a space agency but it is not OK for America's space agency's administrator to work with the same space agency in 2016 that Hadfield helped to set up? If working with UAE is so terrible then where was Bednar's outrage in 2014? Why does he make no mention of this contradiction now?


Space cooperation is not a vehicle for LGBTQ rights, OpEd, John Sheldon, SpaceNews

"And now, Danny Bednar, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Western Canada, writes in these very pages perhaps the most vapid attempt at politically linking what happened in Orlando to the agreement reached between NASA and the UAE Space Agency in Abu Dhabi on June 12, 2016. ... The ridiculousness of Mr. Bednar's stance beggars belief, and implies a political agenda that, doubtless unwitting on his part, mirrors that of xenophobes like Donald Trump. On top of that, it reeks of the kind of breathless, hypocritical, and self-righteous identity politics that poisons the body politic."

What Were They Thinking? Bednar SpaceNews Opinion Piece Misses the Mark, SpaceRef Canada

"I'm not sure why SpaceNews published the opinion piece After Orlando, NASA-UAE deal gives reason to ponder space partnerships of Danny Bednar, a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at Western University, the day after the Orlando terror attack. I can only surmise it was to pull a Buzzfeed and post something controversial to attract readers. It worked."

Keith's note: Dava Newman likely only has 7 months or so left in her job as Deputy Administrator - maybe a few more as acting administrator while the next Administration picks their team. Meanwhile, her old job at MIT is waiting for her to return. So, she does not have any job security issues to worry about. As such, one would think that instead of spending all of this time overseas (she is currently in Austria) that she'd be back in the U.S. doing whatever it is that she does at NASA. As for Charlie Bolden: he has told folks that he plans to increase his travel in his final year - and that is exactly what he is doing.

Universal Faces $20M Lawsuit By Homer Hickam Over 'October Sky'

"Author and former NASA engineer Homer Hickam is suing Universal for north of $20M over its October Sky musical. In a breach of contract, fraud and multi-claim jury-seeking complaint filed today, the Rocket Boys memoirist claims that Universal Pictures "has taken the completely fallacious position" that Hickam gave over all the rights to the source material to the studio. Its 1999 film October Sky was based on Rocket Boys, and the musical premiered onstage last year."

Author Sues Universal Over Musical Theater Adaptation of 'October Sky', Hollywood Reporter

"A decade later, Hickam developed and produced Rocket Boys into a live stage musical with the approval of Universal, according to the lawsuit. In 2015, Universal decided to create an October Sky musical, purportedly based on the film and Hickam's memoir, and has shut down the author's stage show."

- Text of lawsuit
- October Sky, Wikipedia

Elon Musk plans manned mission to Mars by 2024, Mashable

"If things go according to plan, [we] should be able to launch people by 2024 with arrival in 2025," said Musk. Musk noted that in order to build growing cities on Mars - putting his multi-planet species idea in action - SpaceX will need to develop the ability to transport larger numbers of people and millions of pounds of hardware."

Why does SpaceX market space better than NASA?, Teslarati

"The question of what makes SpaceX so different in marketing space technology is still a difficult one for me as my personal reasons for admiring their progress has little to do with the aesthetics of the achievements. I admire the true progress they're making and the relatability of what they're developing to what their larger goals are. NASA may be truly making progress towards a "Journey to Mars", but when compared to the advancements SpaceX has achieved, it seems more like thus far, they just have a guitar amp that "goes to 11"."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: We Should Settle Mars 'Because It's Cool', Fortune

"We could build gigantic chip factories in space and just send little bits down," he said. "We don't have to build them here." But then, sensing the obvious next question from the audience, Bezos interrupted himself to declare: "We will settle Mars. And we should, because it's cool."

Keith's note: Uh oh. There's a spacecraft going the wrong way in this movie trailer. Neil Tyson will therefore hate all over it. Too bad. Although the plot seems to be pretty simplistic it might well resonate with a certain demographic - you know the young people who might grow up and actually go on the #JourneyToMars. There are NASA logos in the movie, so one would assume some level of cross-promotion by NASA.

"Morning breaks for astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft sits on the left side of frame, attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. Taken 17 April 2016. ISS047e066509 (04/17/2016) larger image"

EmDrive: Nasa Eagleworks confirms paper on controversial space propulsion is under peer review, International Business Times

"The Eagleworks Lab is NOT dead and we continue down the path set by our NASA management. Past that I can't say more other than to listen to Dr Rodal on this topic, and please have patience about when our next EW paper is going to be published. Peer reviews are glacially slow," Eagleworks engineer Paul March wrote on the Nasa Spaceflight forum on 17 March. ... The finished product would also be subjected to independent verification and validation at Glenn Research Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory."

Report: The EmDrive Finally Will Undergo Peer Review, Popular Mechanics

"Now, the International Business Times (no stranger to hyperbole and claims NASA is covering up UFOs) claims that the EmDrive is under peer review as we speak. IBT pulls this news from the NASA Spaceflight forum, where one member of the EmDrive team, Paul March, also says that the claims that Eagleworks (an experimental lab at Johnson Space Center) is dead are quite exaggerated."

NASA designs Enterprise-inspired warp-speed ship, San Francisco Chronicle

"But NASA engineer and physicist Harold White apparently didn't get the memo. He is now actively working on the mathematics behind building a space ship that would allow travel faster than the speed of light or what countless fans of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise know as warp speed without having to prove Einstein wrong."

Keith's note: Here we go again. NASA is building a warp drive. This time media is picking up on it because of NASA's supposed secrecy about the results of this oh-so-secret and revolutionary research - as if there actually are any "results". Who is paying for this research - and why? As you can see from earlier posts 3 years ago, all I ever got (at best) from NASA JSC was an evasive set of responses from one of the researchers (Sonny White) several years ago. NASA JSC PAO is too embarrassed to go on the record. They refuse to say how much has been spent on it. And who is going to pay these other NASA center personnel at GRC, JPL, and JHUAPL to "verify" what these JSC people cut and paste into Powerpoint?

If Ellen Ochoa and NASA Johnson Space Center management had any credibility whatsoever they'd debunk this goofy research once and for all. But they won't. Instead they allow these people to overtly use the agency's name and assert official NASA sponsorship as they seek credibility by posting cryptic comments on Internet discussion boards that inevitably find their way into news reports. If anyone else did this NASA HQ lawyers would be all over them.

According to people.nasa.gov Paul March can be reached at paul.march-1@nasa.gov +1.281.483.0484. Harold "Sonny" White can be reached at harold.white-1@nasa.gov +1.281.483.0178. Perhaps some enterprising journalist can squeeze a little more detail out of them.

Quack physics is not how NASA is going to make the #JourneyToMars - or is it?

- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- Hooray - JSC Warp Drive Confirmed !!!!, earlier post
- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive: Smoke and Mirrors, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
- NASA: We're Not Working on Warp Drive, earlier post
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post
- NASA's Super Secret Warp Drive Program, earlier post

Keith's revised note: Looks like some people from the Westboro Baptist Church decided to protest at NASA HQ today against the agency's work to prevent asteroids from destroying Earth. These are the same disturbed people who picket funerals for military personnel killed in action. FWIW counter protesters were holding up a sign saying "God Loves Uranus". I'm sure that he does.

Space Access '16 Conference Information

"Space Access '16 is Space Access Society's twenty-third annual conference on the business, technology, and politics of radically cheaper access to space, this year with a strong sub-focus on policy decisions and technology directions needed for Beyond Low Orbit: The Next Step Out."

Keith's note: Unless I have made an error not a single speaker at the upcoming Space Access Society's event is female. It was like this last year too, etc. etc. Yet another space advocate meeting where the speaker demographics simply do not reflect reality and are seemingly stuck in another era. Hardly a way to address topics that affect future generations.

Keith's update: As expected, I made a mistake. One of the speakers in 2016 is female and two in 2015 were female - on agendas with over two dozen speakers. Like I said 'unless I have made an error'. My point still stands. These agendas are totally skewed disproportionately toward males.

NASA PAO has provided this statement: "NASA's Johnson Space Center does not prohibit the use of any specific religious terms or names in employee newsletters, or other internal communications. The 'JSC Today' daily electronic newsletter has cited numerous religious themes and holiday events throughout its history. A May 28, 2015, 'JSC Today' posting for the Praise and Worship Club was cited by some employees as proselytizing and an inappropriate use of federal resources. However, the newsletter has continued to make postings that have been religious in nature for both the Praise and Worship Club and other organizations, and on multiple occasions have cited specific references to the name 'Jesus.' There is an exceptionally strong sense of community at Johnson and across the agency, which is why NASA is consistently rated among the very best places to work in the federal government. Johnson's leadership has fostered that spirit of community and mutual respect over the years, and believes it is a crucial contributor in achieving mission success."

- Excerpts from JSC newsletter (PDF) (Compiled by NASA PAO)
- Complaint About NASA Banning Someone's First Name, earlier post

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/iss.silent.jpg

Silent Running on the International Space Station (with pictures and video)

Keith's note: I was looking at Scott Kelly's Flickr page today and was immediately struck by several photos that were hauntingly familiar. More flower pictures. I am a biologist and spent a lot of time studying (and teaching about) plants in college and grad school so I like to look at things like this. In particular the close-up, high resolution pictures of his zinnias really caught my attention. Then I realized why this looked so familiar. "Silent Running" - a cult classic film released in 1972. I first saw the when I was at the impressionable age of 16 and it has been stuck in my head ever since. Decades later it inspired me to build a spacecraft-inspired green house on a remote arctic island. Look at these two pictures - and then watch the opening of the film. Scott Kelly was most channeling his inner Freeman Lowell.

NASAWatch's Keith Cowing is The Agency's Biggest Critic and Most Obsessed Fan, Inverse

"Despite the small staff, the website pushes out content daily, and a lot of it ... it has a small but influential audience of NASA employees, policy makers, and the requisite amount of fellow space geeks. ... [with regard to critics] These types of scuffles, to Cowing, are "junior high sort of stuff," yet owns up to having his share of detractors. "I assume 50 percent or more don't care for what I do a lot of people who read my stuff would be terrified to be seen talking to me in public," he tells me. "Everybody is critical of me, to be honest." For the most part, It's not what Cowing says that bothers people; it's how he says it. The polarization around his online persona is likely due to the website's balance of solid watchdoggery and irreverent, sometimes abrasive commentary, that even for non-space nerds, is highly entertaining stuff."

Keith's note: Of course when you write a profile about someone, a good writer seeks to get contrarian points of view. That said, its funny how Rand Simberg (who is quoted) thinks that I am afraid of guns. This picture of me shows me engaging in polar bear defense target practice on Devon Island (located 800 miles from the North Pole) in 2003. I am actually a rather good shot and, as a Mac user, I rather enjoyed putting shotgun blasts into that Dell PC cardboard box with a target painted on it. I could have done that all day. Also, its funny how Ethan Siegel says "I've considered blocking him multiple times". Well, Ethan, since I do not follow you on Twitter (or anywhere else), block away - I can guarantee that you'll feel better for having done so.

NASA bans the word 'Jesus', Fox

"The name of Jesus is not welcome in the Johnson Space Center newsletter, according to a complaint filed on behalf of a group of Christians who work for NASA. The JSC Praise & Worship Club was directed by NASA attorneys to refrain from using the name 'Jesus' in club announcements that appeared in a Space Center newsletter. "It was shocking to all of us and very frustrating," NASA engineer Sophia Smith told me. "NASA has a long history of respecting religious speech. Why wouldn't they allow us to put the name Jesus in the announcement about our club?" Liberty Institute, one of the nation's largest religious liberty law firms, threatened to file a federal lawsuit unless NASA apologizes and stops censoring the name 'Jesus'."

Keith's note: Right. The name "Jesus" is being censored at NASA. Go to people.nasa.gov and type "Jesus" in the first name search box. Look at all the results. [Larger image] If this loony claim is real then any time any of these employees named "Jesus" is quoted in the newsletter or wants to place a want ad, etc. they will have to do so under a false name. And when they write technical papers, they will have to use a false name too. I wonder what happens when it comes to the name on their pay checks. Do the people who write these opinion pieces ever bother to think before they hit 'send'?

Keith's note: NASA PAO sent me the following statement: "NASA does not prohibit the use of any specific religious names in employee newsletters or other internal communications. The agency allows a host of employee-led civic, professional, religious and other organizations to meet on NASA property on employees' own time. Consistent with federal law, NASA attempts to balance employees' rights to freely exercise religious beliefs with its obligation to ensure there is no government endorsement of religion. We believe in and encourage open and diverse dialogue among our employees and across the agency."

Food For Thought

NASA isn't going to touch B.o.B.'s flat-Earth rant, Washington Post
.
"Here's the anthology of the bizarre-o flap: The rapper began sharing images and whack-job conspiracy theories in support of his position on Sunday. After astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stepped in to school him, B.o.B. threw shade at the scientist and the space agency in a diss track. ... Tyson even enlisted his nephew to pen a song responding to B.o.B's. But NASA is planning to stay (much like an Earth-monitoring satellite) above the fray. "We don't think there's a debate to be had," an agency spokeswoman said. Instead, she pointed anyone interested in the issue to the agency's' website and cache of images of our fair planet sent from space."

Keith's note: With no science fiction movies around to dump on, Neil Tyson needs something to get him on Comedy Central. Because, in the end, Neil Tyson is just an entertainer with a Ph.D. What nonsense issue will Neil Tyson go after next? Oh wait: X-Files is back on the air

- Going to Mars: Talking Head Vs Rocket Builder

NASA Goes Glam

NASA Launches David Bowie Concept Mission, The Onion

"NASA officials announced today the successful launch of the new shuttle Moonage Daydream, marking the beginning of a long-anticipated two-week conceptual mission inspired by British rock star David Bowie. According to NASA administrator Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr., the highly experimental glam space program dubbed Project Starman has been in development for exactly five years. Though engineers initially feared the mission might "blow our minds," the historic launch ultimately proceeded without incident."

Aliens, bunny-killing rovers, and a Moon base: What all is NASA "hiding"?, Ars Technica

"Spend any time around NASA public affairs specialists, as I do, and you'll eventually get the eye roll. It comes when someone inquires about aliens or faked moon landings or all manner of other nonsense. One of the more recent eye-rollers originated in Russia, where officials said sea plankton was growing on the exterior of the International Space Station. (It wasn't.) "If you think that's bad, you should Google 'NASA hiding,'" one space agency official told me. So I didand here are the first five things I found."

Keith's note: Of course NASA does not help itself with the conspiracy crowd when it funds quackery such as the warp drive project at JSC and the LENR project at LaRC - both of which defy conventional physics, have yet to yield any reproducible results, and for which NASA is not even willing to reveal budgets or objectives.

Keith's note: On 17 November 2015 NASA issued a press release titled "NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades" regarding NASA JSC's R-5 robot. At the time I asked "Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?". I sent NASA PAO a simple request asking "How many applications/proposals were submitted? Which schools submitted proposals?" PAO replied "Thanks for reaching out to us. To answer your question, it's not our practice to share information about the number of proposals we received or which proposals were not selected. The two university groups were chosen through a competitive selection process from groups entered in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge. The NASA challenge was limited to U.S. university participants in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals." (see Never Ask NASA a Simple Question)

Gee, all I wanted to know was how many organization submitted proposals and NASA refused to tell me that simple number. What now had me wondering was why NASA was so shy about providing such a simple answer. I did not ask who had applied, simply how many universities had applied. Hmmm ... could it be that only two universities applied? If so, how did it happen that they knew to apply? Did NASA drop hints to potential submitters? Do recall that the R-5 robot has been somewhat of a failure and JSC would just love to pull something successful out of this mess.

R-5 is not the droid you were looking for.

Developed in secrecy by NASA JSC, R-5 competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013 and tied for dead last. Indeed, the R-5 was not even able to get out of its own way in some portions of the competition. NASA never really explained what this robot was for or why it developed it to have a female shape and form.

After a period of silence, NASA decided in 2015 to haul out their failed R-5 droids out of storage and see if anyone could fix them. Since NASA could not/would not fix them, why not ask if others can help? Not a bad idea. So they asked universities to help them fix the broken robots.

When the two university teams were announced (no doubt highly capable). I wondered how many others had applied and what the interest was in this sort of thing on a national level I was also interested in how hard NASA had worked to actually find the best teams. Mostly I was interested in the number - so I asked PAO. And I got the odd non-response response that PAO provided me.

Not getting an answer I submitted a FOIA request on November 2015. Actually I submitted it twice since the NASA online FOIA submission website was broken that day. Here is the text of my FOIA request:

Keith's note: There is no mention of this amazing photo (or many other stunning photos) to be found at this NASA.gov ISS gallery page or at Scott Kelly's Flickr, NASA2Explore Flickr, NASA_JSC_Photo Flickr, NASA Earth Observatory Flickr, etc. No higher resolution version, no mention of what part of Earth's surface is shown, when it was taken, etc. To be certain having crew members tweet things from orbit to 13.5 million people is great - but so many chances to vastly enhance this reach are missed every day.

Yes, I am complaining about the way NASA sends pictures from space (more or less directly) to my iPhone many times a day. NASA could be spreading this magic elsewhere so very easily.

POTUS and FLOTUS' Favorite Songs, Movies and Moments of 2015, People

"The movie Barack most enjoyed this year was The Martian, starring Matt Damon ..."

The Golden Globes think 'The Martian' is a comedy, New York Post

"... Thursday's nods for Matt Damon as best actor and "The Martian" as best picture in its comedy/musical categories are hilarious. After 2015's Globes "comedy" nominee "Birdman" went on to a Best Picture victory at the Oscars (beating the Globes' dramatic best picture winner "Boyhood"), the studios have doubled down on their efforts to gerrymander films into the less competitive comedy categories for best picture and acting awards."

NASA and "The Martian", NASA

"NASA has collaborated on this film with 20th Century Fox Entertainment, providing guidance on production design and technical consultants..."


Keith's note: CRISPR was leading Pluto in the Science magazine poll until NASA decided to skew the results by using its 13.5 million follower Twitter account to tell people to vote for Pluto. No doubt the mission's PI will be jumping up and down and crowing about how popular Pluto is when in fact NASA stuffed the ballot box.

In case you are wondering what CRISPR is, in a nutshell, it is a revolutionary process whereby genetic information can be edited - added, deleted etc. with extreme precision. Its potential for correcting genetic errors that cause disease and developmental problems, its potential to develop new genetic therapies, and its potential for genetically modified organisms for agriculture is truly immense. CRISPR and allied technologies has the potential to affect the lives of everyone on Earth. New Horizons, on the other hand, is just one of many things that happened in 2015 that certainly add to our overall knowledge - but with little direct potential to materially impact everyone's quality of life. New Horizons was not a "breakthrough" as this poll seeks to discuss. CRISPR is. For NASA to be trying to use social media tip the scales in a decidedly unscientific online poll is deceptive. There are better things NASA could be doing with its social media prowess than this.

Just because NASA can use its social media presence to make a loud impact does not necessarily mean that it should automatically do so - without exercising some strategic thought to decide if it is truly the best use of that power. NASA should focus on explaining the whole #JourneyToMars thing, spreading planetary climate change information, education, advanced technology, etc. and let the biomedical "breakthroughs" have their day in the sun.

New Horizons will never save a single human life. CRISPR will.

2015 Report on NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges, NASA OIG

"In the OIG's view, the principal challenge facing Agency leaders will be to effectively manage the Agency's varied programs in an uncertain budget environment. NASA's ability to sustain its ambitious exploration, science, and aeronautics programs continues to be driven in large measure by whether the Agency is able to adequately fund such high-profile initiatives as its commercial cargo and crew programs, Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, James Webb Space Telescope, and the personnel and infrastructure associated with these and other projects."

NASA OIG: NASA's 2014 Top Management and Performance Challenges, previous post

"The underlying theme of this year's report is sustainability. Specifically, the OIG noted that NASA's ability to sustain its ambitious exploration, science, and aeronautics programs will be driven in large measure by whether the Agency is able to adequately fund such high-profile initiatives as its commercial cargo and crew programs, Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020 Rover, and associated personnel and infrastructure."

NASA OIG: 2013 Report on NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges, previous post

"Similar to last year, we noted that declining budgets and fiscal uncertainties have compounded the difficulty of meeting these and other NASA challenges. Finally, during FY 2014 the OIG will conduct audit and investigative work that focuses on NASA's continuing efforts to meet these challenges."

NASA OIG: Final Report - IG-12-021 - NASA's Challenges to Meeting Cost, Schedule, and Performance Goals, (2012) previous post

"Throughout its 50 year history, NASA has been at the forefront of science and space exploration and the Agency's missions have resulted in numerous scientific discoveries and technological innovations. Unfortunately, in addition to their scientific accomplishments many NASA projects share another less positive trait - they often cost significantly more to complete and take longer to launch than originally promised."

The Martian is a comedy?, Entertainment.com

"Yes, once again the Hollywood Foreign Press with Fox's tacit approval has chosen to give a dramatic film with humorous moments the designation of a comedy. The move puts Ridley Scott's space adventure, which has now earned $200 million at the box office, in company with other dubious 'comedy' choices of the recent past, such as Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, Alexander Payne's Nebraska, and even the 2005 Keira Knightley-starring Pride and Prejudice. The comedy designation will offer both The Martian (and Joy, most likely) the ability to compete against lighter fare, including the Amy Schumer-starrer Trainwreck or the Melissa McCarthy summer hit Spy. It will also allow the Matt Damon-crowd pleaser to escape the stiffer dramatic competition, which will likely include heavier dramas such as Spotlight, Carol, and Steve Jobs. And for the Globes, it provides better odds that their star-studded affair stays that way, especially if Damon is nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy."

Keith's note: Interesting: NASA PAO unknowingly did a promotional tie-in with a space comedy film in pursuit of its own #JourneyToMars promotional campaign. That's not a first, though: they worked with "Sharknado 3" and "Armageddon" too.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/2kirks.jpg

Von Braun Symposium speech Oct. 29, 2015, Wayne Hale

"Two years ago I spoke to this conference and told you that we need to fly soon and fly often. We need to figure out how that can be done. Today we are not two years closer to the first human flight of our exploration systems. If anything we are farther away. No wonder I'm frustrated. If we are honest with each other, then we will acknowledge we are all frustrated. In our frustration it is natural to try to place blame somewhere. John Adams once famously remarked that 'One disreputable man is a disgrace; Two disreputable men are a law-firm, and Three or more disreputable men are called a Congress." Ho ho ho. We all like that. But listen to me: It is not the Congress's fault we are where we are. If anything, they are accurately representing their constituent's views. Do you want to blame the President? It is not the President's fault. Do you want to blame OMB, OSTP, the Big Aerospace Corporations, the little New Space disruptors? It is easy to point the finger and blame somebody else. But I am here to tell you all in the family now that they are not to blame. If you want to know who to blame, look in the mirror."

Keith's note: The music in this official "He Haw"-style shout out is the theme from the old TV show "Beverly Hillbillies". I do not see that it is credited to writer/composer Paul Henning. Just sayin' Y'all come back now.

Keith's note: The following was sent out by Belansky, Michael J. (JSC-NS231) to a lot of people at JSC yesterday. Given Mark Watney's poo and potato experiments in "The Martian", its seems that this topic is on JSC management's minds these days.

"From: Belansky, Michael J. (JSC-NS231)
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2015 10:54 AM
To: HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE (DELETED) Larger image
Cc: JSC-WCC-Work-Control-Center
Subject: Need Your Help

Build 20 Residents,

It seems it's time to send out a reminder about proper potty etiquette. Please remember that only toilet paper should be flushed besides human waste. In the event that more than a reasonable amount of toilet paper is needed, please perform a preliminary flush before overwhelming the commode with massive amounts of toilet paper. If by chance you forget these guidelines and do overwhelm the toilet or notice a clogged commode, please be courteous and report the stopped up toilet immediately by writing an email to JSC-WCC-Work-Control-Center (jsc-wcc@mail.nasa.gov) and .cc both me and David Nayles. This way the problem gets resolved quickly."

An Alarming Number Of People Think "The Martian" Is A True Story, BuzzFeed

"The Martian, the new movie by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars, is being rightly praised for its fairly accurate portrayal of science. But maybe it was too realistic, because an alarming number of people out there have come away from the film thinking it is based on a true story."

Sheila Jackson Lee

"In 1997, while on a trip to the Mars Pathfinder operations center in California, Jackson Lee confused the planet Mars with Earth's own moon, asking whether the Pathfinder had succeeded in taking a picture of the flag planted on Mars by Neil Armstrong in 1969."

Don't worry. Matt Damon won't get stuck on Mars. NASA can't get him there, Washington Post

"We're setting expectations for something that is decades away. The public has a short attention span," said Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA under President Obama. Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for exploration, thinks NASA needs to spell out intermediate steps to Mars. There's one obvious stopping point between the third and fourth rocks from the sun: The moon. Cooke says it could be a proving ground for off-world living. "There needs to be more of a plan for actually getting there," Cooke said. "You can't have a flat-line budget indefinitely and think you're going to put all of this together by 2030."

Astronauts again blast off at box office, 'The Martian' lands with $55 million debut, US News & World report

"The 20th Century Fox release, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut left for dead on Mars, exceeded expectations to nearly rank as the top October debut ever. The estimated North American opening of "The Martian" surpassed that of Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" ($47.5 million) and virtually equaled the debut of Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" ($55.8 million)."

Keith's note: Once the feel-good hoopla surrounding "The Martian" fades, NASA will be in the exact same place it was before the film was released: frantically inserting "Journey To Mars" into every public utterance - however tenuous the actual connection - with no clear plan or guaranteed budget to actually make it all happen. And there aren't any more Mars movies in the Hollywood pipeline to keep the buzz going.

The Martian: How NASA Soars - and Stumbles - Simultaneously, earlier post

Film Review: "The Martian", Keith Cowing

"The Martian is a really good movie. It would be a good movie even if it was not set in outer space. But it does happen in space and does so in superbly flawless fashion. The movie is fast-paced and really doesn't miss a beat. Little time is wasted on things that do not support the story. You are on Mars with Mark Watney and you really want to see him get home."

NASA = Mars = Delusional, Paul Spudis

"Apparently, NASA believes that as this movie takes off in popularity, a public wound-up about space exploration will demand that the agency be showered with additional money."

Keith's note: No, Paul I have yet to find a single person even remotely involved in PR or EPO efforts at NASA who thinks that this is going to happen and/or have adopted this as a strategy. Indeed a lot of them are a little leery that some space advocates seem to be operating under this delusion. NASA PAO folks are doing the PR for the reasons I cite below in "Growing The Next Generation Of Space Explorers" I do have to pose the question: why are so many movies (viewed by the public) about going to Mars, and so very few about going to the Moon? Hollywood (at least) tries to make movies that large audiences will go and see. The Moon is not sexy right now - hate to burst your balloon. Whose fault is it that the Moon is not hip right now?

That said, if you strip out Paul's barely suppressed hostility about Mars-o-mania, he does touch on some important points in this posting - and you should read it. As Spudis knows, I think the notion of sending humans back to the Moon has been ignored for far too long. So has the notion of sending humans to Mars. We should do both in a coordinated, synergistic, evolutionary way. The fact that prominent space advocates/scientists fight in public like this simply reaffirms my ongoing commentary about how space policy is (rather is not) made and that space advocates need to stop talking to one another and go outside their sandboxes into the real world and see what passes for important.

I suspect that the elusive secret sauce needed to link what NASA and the space sector can do, what they should do, and how they should do it - in a growing fashion - lies outside the agency all together. Space fans just have to accept some humility, adopt a open mind, and look. Its there. Sometimes it lingers just out of reach when a big space movie comes out. Other times its brought on by something interesting in the sky. Its there. Its like dark matter since we can see its influence. But space fans have yet to figure out how to actually detect it.

So long as prominent members of the space science/policy advocacy communities have these stark, incompatible, almost religious disagreements about where to go (and where not to go) they will make no progress. Indeed as costs increase they are going to continue to make negative progress. Absent from all of these intramural squabbles is a lucid explanation as to why NASA should spend billions of "regular" people's tax dollars on things that a lot of regular folks simply do not understand - all while college tuition has become obscene and health care costs are increasing like a runaway train. Given this dysfunctional behavior I remain totally baffled as to how the space community at large (or its various dueling tribes) thinks that they can just turn around and get the public to clamor for more money for ANY of these projects when they are so utterly detached from the real world that pumps money into NASA's lap in the first place.

How Matt Damon could rocket NASA to Mars in real life, MarketWatch

"Public support is seen as crucial to the agency as it works to make due on a promise to send humans to the red planet within 20 years. As excitement regarding the potential to travel to, land, and possibly even live on Mars grows, scientists say it could prop up NASA's missions and help secure ongoing funding. This week, a number of scientists heralded the film's factual accuracy, NASA announced a breakthrough discovery regarding flowing water on the red planet, and a rare blood moon on Sunday attracted a significant amount of attention on social media sites. The momentum has set the film up for a solid opening weekend, with Fandango reporting that pre-sales for "The Martian" are exceeding those of the 2013 sci-fi thriller "Gravity." Box office tracking company BoxOffice.com estimates the film will rake in $56 million this weekend."

Keith's note: OK, so lets just say for a moment that a visually stunning movie about an adventure on a strange new world sets box office records and goes on to make a billion dollars or more. In the process media visibility is relentless and the movie sells itself through word of mouth and a creative PR campaign. And oh yes, the real NASA is part of the PR effort. Well, take out the NASA part and the film I was describing was "Avatar". A couple of years later "Gravity" had a smaller, but similar effect. And Last year's "Interstellar" made its mark with some distinction as well.

Where is the budget bump for NASA directly (or even indirectly) attributable from these films? Did NASA's astrobiology and extrasolar planets budget get a big bump? ("Avatar"). How about human spaceflight? ("Gravity") Breakthrough propulsion and astrophysics? ("Interstellar"). Did Congress introduce bills inspired by any of these bills? Did the White House initiate any new legislative efforts? Did a citizen's movement arise and deluge Congress and the White House with letters asking for more support for space exploration thus causing a policy pivot? No.

Ignoring recent history (as space advocates regularly do) the usual space advocacy suspects have been trumpeting "The Martian" as a game changer for NASA and space exploration. Will it have an effect on inspiring young people? Of course it will - as did all of the other films I mentioned plus others. Decades ago like "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Star Trek" shaped my future career (and still do). And the inspiration in the near term may grown and evolve into something more pervasive and real in years to come. No one doubts that these movies can affect people in a life altering way. But there's not going to be special congressional committees called into existence to respond to citizen demands as a result of "The Martian" - since there will be no such demands.

NASA has been closely linked to PR and education and public outreach in connection with the movie - a wise, excellent decision. So far NASA has conducted itself perfectly, using the film to help explain basic things that it does and when drama trumps science, why this was done and what the real science is. They also helped the producers make it as close to reality as is practical with any scifi drama. There is no downside to this. Well, actually there is: NASA has nowhere near the budget for the Mars stuff in the film and what work it is already engaged in is beset with cost overruns and significant delays. But the movie goers aren't going to see a budget presentation. They are going to see a story. Maybe they will walk out of the theater with that story playing in their head. And perhaps some time in the near (or far) future when asked about space in a poll, or to vote for someone who mentions space, they might see their actions driven by this film (and others). But signing petitions and engaging in organized lobbying? I think not. Its just a movie.

But if people make humans to Mars something that they own as a result of seeing this film - something that they internalize personally - or see as what their children want to do, then you have to nucleus of a chance to sway policy decisions. This only happens if you plant the seed and nourish it. And this interest should not be forced to conform to the tired, broken tactics that Space advocates use (i.e. talking to one another but not the 99.999% who are not in the room). Rather it should be sought out in poor inner city schools or farming communities - not just magnet/charter schools in rich suburban communities. If space advocates want to so this space stuff for all humanity then they need to involve all of humanity.

This magical change that the space advocates expect will arise and will alleviate all of NASA's woes will not happen. Movies - even the most popular and successful - have yet to affect NASA's space policy. As my long-time friend Alan Ladwig noted, no one makes movies about NIH (or NSF) but their budgets go up without that cinematic boost. As far as NASA is concerned I (and Alan!) would sincerely love to be wrong - but I do not see it happening with "The Martian".

But this film will have a positive impact even if it's impact invisible at the moment. And other movies will follow with similar impacts. NASA will derive its best benefit from this and future scifi movies in terms of soft power - not from an onslaught of loud space advocates doing a march up the Mall in Washington demanding money for NASA. Rather, it starts with a student paying a little extra attention to a hard class in school this month - or changing their major next year. Maybe its a new merit badge in scouting or an interest in greenhouses or hacking an Arduino board to do something new. Maybe its a parent picking a different birthday present. Or maybe its a slowly building gut feeling that there are things out there that need to be explored. And the secret to this is education. Alas, NASA's education system, however well-intentioned, has been underfunded, uncoordinated, and mismanaged for decades. That needs to be fixed if NASA wants to have the next generation equipped and able to engage in the adventures the agency wants to embark upon.

Space exploration supporters in general need to take a lesson from "The Martian's" Watney - and "Insterstellar's" Cooper: become farmers and grow an army of supporters no matter where the potential supporters may live. The place to start is where those supporters actually are in terms of their dreams and interests. You can't force your dreams onto someone else.

When you set out to grow a tree you do not hammer a stick of wood into the ground and just walk away. You plant a seed or a seedling and then wait. And you nurture when needed. Space advocates need to put aside their hammers.

Can Hollywood save NASA?, Washington Post

"NASA is having something of a moment. "The Martian" debuts this week to huge expectations: starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, the $100-million-plus film highlights not only the ingenuity and pluck of those who would go to the stars, but also the bureaucratic stumbling blocks facing our spacefarers at home."

The Martian is a great movie, but it sends the wrong message about our happy little journey to Mars, Houston Chronicle

"What I'm concerned about is the way in which a mission to Mars is portrayed in the book and film. It looks a lot like an Apollo mission to Mars, and in 2015 that's a problem. From outward appearances, almost all of the hardware is NASA hardware. All of the important decisions are made by NASA people. There isn't a whiff of commercial space in the film. Not a SpaceX, nor even a Boeing. It's all NASA. (Not that NASA isn't great. It is.)"

Keith's note: One on hand "The Martian" shows how NASA people can do almost anything when they put their minds to it. On the other hand it shows that even a future NASA is plagued by seemingly inescapable bureaucratic inertia. This strange duality was inherent in "Apollo 13" set nearly half a century ago - and seems to be what people expect will exist at NASA decades from now. Its almost as if one person at NASA can't excel at something without having someone down the hall doing something stupid. The time span between "Apollo 13" and "The Martian" is some 60 or so years. I'm not sure what to think about an agency that still can't find a better way to do things after 60 years. Its as if no one can imagine a future NASA different than the NASA of today - or yesterday.

40-50-60 years and NASA can't fix itself? I am not sure it will be around when this movie is supposed to happen. Is this any way to explore the solar system? No ... after 19.5 years of ranting online about this, I still don't have an answer.

Do any of you?

JSC Vs JPL Culture

How We Go to Mars, op ed, Rick Tumlinson, Space News

"So what do we do? As many of these approaches are viable, we must go back to the Why? to begin culling out the dead ends. Since a notable group of space leaders at the 2015 Pioneering Space Summit agreed settlement is the goal and science is something you get if you do settlement (the reverse does not apply), I will adopt that assertion as my standard in the process of elimination."

Keith's note: Yet another word salad op ed about going to Mars - this time from Rick Tumlinson, one of the usual suspects in space advocacy community. The author asks dozens of questions yet does not answer a single one. The last sentence of this rambling piece was all that Tumlinson probably needed to say to get his point across.

Tumlinson and his New World Institute had all the space advocates in Washington all pumped up for his "Pioneering Space National Summit" event in February 2015. No media were allowed in. If one were to believe all of the pre-game hype, discussions were to be had amongst the pillars of the space community, and momentous statements intended to break the deadlock and propel us all into space were to be issued. As I noted in June 2015, 4 months after the event "Checking the website there seems to be little in the way of output - just two documents only a couple of pages long that are mostly semi-edited meeting notes/outlines: Report: Deliberation #1 - Vision (Group A) and Report: Deliberation #2 - Strategy (Group A). Two other documents are apparently being edited. That's it?" Nothing has changed. Its as if nothing happened.

But wait - there's more - now the same New Worlds Institute that provided none of the promised space policy goodies from Pioneering Space National Summit is holding New Worlds 2015 in October 2015 an event with the usual suspects which claims to be "the first comprehensive gathering of the people, companies and institutions that will open space to human development and settlement". I have seen meetings like this every 3 years for the past 40 years. L-5 people used to talk like this in the 1970s.

These events accomplish nothing. Why not just take all the money that goes into running them and just buy cubesat launches and put real space technology in the hands of the next generation instead of enabling this endless stream of pointless blabber from all of us middle-aged tired space advocates?

Choir practice in an echo chamber - that's all these events are.

- Pioneering Space National Summit: So Far, Nothing But Crickets
- Yet Another Plan For Outer Space, earlier post
- Pioneering Space National Summit Details Emerge, earlier post
- Alliance for Space Development: Yawn - Yet Another Space Group, earlier post
- space Advocates Work Together By Not Working Together, earlier post
- Move Along. This Is Not The Space Policy You're Looking For., earlier post

Keith's note: If you go to people.nasa.gov and look up former NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin you will see that he is still listed in the agency's phone directory albeit with a non-NASA email and no phone. No other former NASA Administrator (or Deputy) is listed. Why is that?

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/griffin.jpg

Toronto Film Review:'The Martian', Variety

"But instead of trying to scare people off space travel, Scott and company recombine these elements in hopes of inspiring a generation for whom the moon landing and shuttle missions are now ancient history, practically nostalgia, while the American space program sits mothballed. While not propaganda per se, the film seeks to galvanize (rather than terrorize) those who might shape the future."

The Martian Review, ComingSoon.net

"Ridley Scott's return to space may defy credibility at times, but it's a joyous and triumphant tribute to science and the space program that's consistently entertaining, which should allow it to be a substantial crowdpleaser."

Ridley Scott's The Martian Is Sublime, Sophisticated Entertainment

"If you are worried about heading to space again with Ridley Scott after the grim, muddled Prometheus, fear not. His new space yarn, The Martian, based on the science-heavy novel by Andy Weir, is a pure delight, a tense survival tale leavened by an abundance of geeky wit and an array of fine actors at their snappy best. It's the first Ridley Scott picture in a long time that feels energized by its scope and ambition rather than buried under it."

Keith's note: Positive reviews. Lots of cross-over promotion videos and advertisements too. And NASA is engaged. Should be a great movie. But ... there are still no comments from Explore Mars (or any other space advocacy organizations) as to how the movie is going to increase NASA's budget. Of course, the space advocacy groups will all argue as to how such imaginary money should be spent since none of them agree with NASA or each other as to how humans should travel to Mars and what they should do there. Maybe the movie will inspire a new generation of space advocates that will actually do the things needed to go to Mars instead of just talking about doing them decade after decade after decade.

Space Advocates Think A Movie Will Send Humans to Mars. If Only., earlier post

Keith's 11 Sep note: One of the ways to contact NASA procurement personnel is by fax. This is the case at all government agencies. Indeed, NASA's various field centers incude Fax numbers in procurement notices. But not NASA HQ (it would seem). Oddly, all of their fax machines seem to have the same number i.e. 000-000-0000 as is seen on this current procurement notice Research Opportunities in Materials Science - MaterialsLab Open Science Campaigns for Experiments on the International Space Station. This notice states "Questions with regard to responding to this NRA may be addressed to the contacts referenced in the full solicitation document." So ... are they really suggesting that you send a fax (if that's how you need to communicate) to 000-000-0000?

Keith's 15 Sep update: NASA's response is that they put the 000-000-0000 in so that people will call or email and not fax. Duh, why not just say that in the notice?

Keith's note: As I noted last week there is a Kickstarter effort to recreate the NASA 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual - the document that spelled out how NASA's new logo aka the worm logo - was to be used by the agency. Very retro cool. So what does NASA do they release the document online for free. Why not - its a government document. One small problem: the NASA online version is a pathetically ugly scan of the document whereas the Kickstarter team is going to make their version look as nice as the original.

By all means the Reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual on Kickstarter will be a vastly superior product. They exceeded their original $158,000 and are now at $683,456. Please support it.

The Care and Feeding of the NASA Worm Logo, earlier post

NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding, The Onion

"Calling the program "the most crucial in the agency's history," researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill. The rover, named Hope, is a remotely operated, semi-autonomous vehicle outfitted with ultra-sensitive equipment that can detect even the smallest amounts of program-sustaining revenue, NASA scientists confirmed."

$79 for an Out-of-Date Book About a Modern NASA Logo, NY Times

"For $79 plus shipping, you can buy a reprint of a long-obsolete federal government publication. The captivating title? "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphics Standards Manual." It may not be a page turner, but among certain design and space aficionados, it is a cherished piece of history. A Kickstarter campaign begun on Tuesday aims to raise $158,000 to finance a high-quality hardcover printing of this bureaucratic relic."

LOST IN SPACE; Meatballs Devour Worms!!, NY Times (1999)

"Keith Cowing, an ex-NASA payload manager who documents worm sightings on the NASA Watch Web site, raps Goldin's subordinates for obsessively hiding the worm from the boss. A NASA spokesman protests, saying the agency is worming itself -- harmlessly -- over time (old letterhead will be used up, etc.): ''If someone decides they better go and eradicate this, that or the other thing, it's not because of Goldin.''

From Worms to Meatballs -- NASA Talk Traces Emblematic History, 2013

Reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual, Kickstarter

Keith's note: Alas, my old NASAWatch "Worm Watch" feature fell offline a long time ago when we did a website update. I always thought that my "wormball" would have been the perfect compromise. Oh well. Truth be known, the whole impetus behind the meatball Vs worm logo change speaks much more to Goldin's interest in getting NASA to change than an actual obsession with the logo - even if it seemed that way at the time. Indeed, it was emblematic of the issue of resistance to change with NASA. If someone could not follow a simple concept and managerial direction of replacing a logo then how could they be expected to do more the complex things needed to transform the agency?

The Martian message, Eric Sterner, Space Review

"Surely, several interests want to capitalize on the melding of film and speculative reality. Damon recently visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he talked about his role, and NASA's website proudly uses the opportunity to explain the real NASA-developed technologies portrayed in the movie. It can only do a space advocate's heart good when Hollywood seems to discover the same sense of excitement in space that we see and experience every day. Sadly, if the space community seeks to turn The Martian into a commercial for sending people to Mars, we will fail miserably. The 2000 movie Castaway was nominated for multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Tom Hanks. It did not increase public support for sending people to deserted islands. Neither will The Martian bring them closer to Mars."

Space Advocacy By Space Advocates Is A Failure, earlier post

"... when several space-themed movie blockbusters really get the public's attention the same space advocates whine when America doesn't rush to embrace their own peculiar space exploration notions and blame the movie's scripts for not being in precise tune with the niche views of the true space believers. ... If all anyone in the space advocacy community can think of doing involves adoring lame PR Mars mission stunts and grabbing the coat tails of sci fi flicks in hope of sniffing the fumes of the film's success, then I fear there is very little of true substance for space advocates to actually be advocating."

Keith's note: Its great that NASA is involved with "The Martian" - as it has been with other movies. To say that there are no potential synergies would be totally incorrect. But for space advocates to expect some detectible shift in space policy as the result of a space movie is naive. I heard all of this expectant hoopla from the space world back when the twin (bad) films "Red Planet" and "Mission to Mars" were set to be released. Nothing happened. For all its prescient majesty, "2001: A Space Odyssey" did not result in a plus-up for the FY 1969 NASA budget. As always, Eric Sterner makes excellent points that echo my earlier rants on this topic. Yet what Eric writes (as with what I rant) will only be read by space advocates. And space advocates are notoriously adept at inbred choir practice inside their own special echo chamber.

Trust me, I would so very, very much like to be proven wrong.

We Get It Neil Tyson: You Hated "Gravity" (Update), earlier post

Red planet rumble, The Space Review

"If somebody was scoring this debate, giving a point for each well-supported argument, deducting a point for each weak one, and subtracting multiple points every time somebody conceded the other side's argument, then Mars One lost it hands down. Not only did Barry Finger admit that MIT's technical analysis and criticism was mostly right, but Lansdorp also admitted that their 12-year plan for landing humans to Mars by 2027 is mostly fiction. Furthermore, Lansdorp acknowledged that he pretty much twists the truth into a pretzel for potential investors when he tells them he knows how to do it and how much it will cost. He doesn't have a clue."

Harnessing The Martian, The Space Review

".. [The Martian] will soon provide a tremendous opportunity particularly to space advocates to extend that excitement to the general population and to engage broad public support for sending human missions to Mars in the near future. The space advocacy community has tried valiantly to promote that goal through other recent films, such as Interstellar and Gravity. However, while those films were certainly entertaining, neither one aligned very well with our space exploration aspirations."

Keith's note: The space advocacy community - especially the human-oriented subset thereof - seems to be unable to discern bad rocket science from science fiction. On one hand so many of their kind believe in a marketing effort (Mars One) with no real technical plan as if it were real because ... well ... because they believe in anything that has to do with their destiny in space. On the other hand when several space-themed movie blockbusters really get the public's attention the same space advocates whine when America doesn't rush to embrace their own peculiar space exploration notions and blame the movie's scripts for not being in precise tune with the niche views of the true space believers.

Keith's note: This is the scary warning language that Orbital ATK places on everything they send to the news media by email. FWIW the emails are sent to a list such that the actual email address to which the email is being sent is not on the To: portion of the email itself. So ... how does one determine whether one is "the intended recipient"? And even if you can figure it out, how do you know if the email contains ITAR sensitive information? Just wondering. And ... of all the people to avoid if you do not want to release inappropriate information, why would you be sending it to the news media in the first place? Yes, its a slow news day.

"Notice: This e-mail is intended solely for use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is proprietary, privileged and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If the reader is not the intended recipient or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. This communication may also contain data subject to U.S. export laws. If so, that data subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulation cannot be disseminated, distributed or copied to foreign nationals, residing in the U.S. or abroad, absent the express prior approval of the U.S. Department of State. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and destroy the e-mail message and any physical copies made of the communication. Thank you."

Astronomers Discover Planet Identical To Earth With Orbital Space Mirror, The Onion

"In what many are hailing as the most significant development in the history of space exploration, NASA scientists announced Thursday that a planet seemingly identical to Earth has been discovered by the agency's Orbital Space Mirror. According to NASA, the $2.9 billion aluminum glass mirror, which stretches over 180 feet wide and 147 feet tall, has already produced invaluable data suggesting that our solar system may contain a terrestrial planet of the exact same size, shape, and surface composition as Earth."

Powerboats on Mars, earlier post (1998)

"Despite suggestions in various news tabloids, project scientists were quick to dispell any suggestion that the branched structure seen northeast of the dam-like structure is a marina. In making this statement, project scientists point out that there is very little air on Mars and that sailboats would be impractical nor is there enough Oxygen to support the internal or external combustion engines used in powerboats."

Sharks In Space

Keith's note: If you watched Sharknado 3 on SyFy tonight then you know that a substantial portion of the film was shot at JSC and KSC. Yes, the movie was utterly stupid (that was the whole point of the movie) but NASA allowed itself to be part of something outside its usual stodgy comfort zone. You may argue whether or not this is the best use of NASA facilities. I look at it this way: last week NASA owned the Internet during the Pluto Flyby. Tonight they were an integral part of an event that owned Twitter and other social media platforms. Not bad.

Keith's note: Over the past 20 years I have done TV hundreds of times and am more or less oblivious to who might be on the other side of the camera somewhere out there - with one exception: the BBC. Their reach is truly global. My friend Chhabi in Kathmandu, Nepal tweeted this mere minutes after I did a live interview via Skype from my basement half a world away. What a small world this big planet is. Oh yes: Chhabi's TV is still on the floor due to ever-present aftershocks.

NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045, The Onion

"It may seem impossible now, but we hope to realize the vision of establishing a human presence in NASA deeper into the century than ever before imagined," Bolden added. When questioned about the plan's viability, Bolden told reporters that while certain doubts remain, the project was nonetheless an absolutely crucial undertaking for NASA."

Keith's update: We can call it #JourneyToNASA. Funny: although The Onion is a satire publication, its mockery often speaks more truth than the target of the mockery may be willing to admit. NASA often acts as if its purpose is to exist.

Public opinion polls and perceptions of US human spaceight, Roger Lanius (2003)

"A belief exists in the United States about public support for NASA's human spaceight activities. Many hold that NASA and the cause of the human exploration of space enjoyed outstanding public support and condence in the 1960s during the era of Apollo and that public support waned in the post- Apollo era, only to sink to quite low depths in the decade of the 1990s. These beliefs are predicated on anecdotal evidence that should not be discounted, but empirical evidence gleaned from public opinion polling data suggests that some of these conceptions are totally incorrect and others are either incomplete or more nuanced than previously believed. This article explores the evolution of public support for space exploration since the 1960s. Using polling data from a variety of sources it presents trends over time and offers comments on the meaning of public perceptions for the evolution of space policy and the development of space exploration in the United States."

Recent Space Poll: The Public is Not Always in Synch With Space Advocates, earlier post

NASA Has Outed Herself

Keith's note: NASA just issued a press release "Our Solar System and Beyond: NASA's Search for Water and Habitable Planets" for an event next week and included this graphic.

Apparently she (NASA) is coming out of the celestial closet. Who knew ;-)

Keith's note: NASAWatch turns 19 on 1 Apr 2015. It started as "NASA RIFWatch" on 1 Apr 1996 and was first hosted on a Mac Classic II on an ISDN line. Here a few things from those early days that are still online:

Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, 1 Oct 1996

"A committee of headquarters employees nominated Cowing for an agency award for running the RIF Watch site. But NASA Associate Administrator for Headquarters Operations Michael Christensen, rejected the idea. "The tone of the page is unacceptable," says Christensen. "None of us dispute his right to run the Web site. My own personal decision was that it would be inappropriate to honor him for it."

- NASA's Most Important Asset, Gerry Griffin, 31 December 1996
- Dan Goldin Comments to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) Meeting, 6/17/96
- Changes in Thinking At NASA November 29, 1996, PBS News Hour


We Need To Expand the Conversation About Space, OpEd, Space News

"But changing the conversation isn't really enough, and that poll shows why a majority of Americans do not support returning to the moon or going to Mars, and just a little over 50 percent of them support increasing funding for human spaceflight. This tells us what our next project is we need to expand the conversation about space, not just change it. All of us who are part of the space community see space's potential. But space is a niche issue for a very simple reason space isn't relevant to the average person."

Keith's note: This op ed makes some astute and frank observations. But then it quickly goes on to utterly ignore these very same observations. In a nutshell this op ed about space activism openly admits that space activism has had little or no effect on space policy over the past three decades. Their solution? Have the same space activist organizations - and the exact same people (activists) - use the same tactics that they openly admit have been ineffective. Moreover they want to sell Congress and the taxpaying public a space policy that they know that people neither want - or understand.

- Yet Another Space Group: The Space Illuminati, earlier post
- Alliance for Space Development Revealed (Yawn), earlier post
- Recent Space Poll: The Public is Not Always in Synch With Space Advocates, earlier post
- Pioneering Space National Summit Details Emerge, earlier post
- Yet Another Plan For Outer Space, earlier post

Another Vulcan on ISS

Keith's update: Wow. Mike and I got retweeted from orbit. How cool.

Keith's note: In space Samantha Cristoforetti honors Leonard Nimoy/Spock by continuing the Vulcan science officer tradition on ISS. Altered imagery by Michael Okuda.

Years ago, when John Grunsfeld left NASA headquarters, Mike Okuda made a "vulcanized" version of John. Everyone loved it - including (so it would seem) the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. For a number for years, there was a copy of this faux picture adjacent to Hubble instruments on display that John had helped to bring back to Earth. It took quite some time for the Smithsonian to notice the details in the photos. Oops.

Leonard Nimoy

Astronaut Salutes Leonard Nimoy From Orbit

"International Space Station astronaut Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) tweeted this image of a Vulcan hand salute from orbit as a tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy, who died on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015."

Statement by NASA Admimistrator Bolden on the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers. As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague."

Statement by the President on the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

"I loved Spock. In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for "Live long and prosper." And after 83 years on this planet - and on his visits to many others - it's clear Leonard Nimoy did just that."

Space Groups Planning New and Revived Advocacy Activities, Space News

"In a speech at the SpaceVision 2014 conference in November in Durham, North Carolina, Tumlinson indicated that participants in the event would be expected to come to a consensus on steps that need to be taken to address those knowledge gaps. That is going to be pushed out into the world as an agreement between people in our community, he said."

"Despite the proximity of the Legislative Blitz to March Storm, and some overlap in participation NSS is supporting both events both Miller and Zucker said there were no plans to coordinate the two events or even combine them. Miller argued that March Storm thrived in the past on developing its own specific, coherent agenda and set of legislative priorities. "We've been very successful with that approach," he said. "March Storm is kind of unique."

Keith's note: Tumlinson ignores the remaining (substantial) portion of the space advocacy community for his summit while Miller and Zucker and their organizations ignore each other. Yea, this is what you need to do so as to start working together.

- Move Along. This Is Not The Space Policy You're Looking For, earlier post
- Yet Another Plan For Outer Space, earlier post

Keith's note: Have a look at this conference at the International Conference - Space Technologies: Present and Future. It is being held in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine - the part of the country where all the fighting is going on. Rebellions and invasions aside, conference sponsorships are still available. The Heinlein Prize/Trust is a sponsor. Curiously they are also a sponsor of the upcoming (and slightly less mysterious) Pioneering Space National Summit in Washington next week.

Earth and Life Sciences, Aircraft Ops Under Microscope in NASA Consolidation Effort, Space News

"NASA's latest attempt to right-size its 10 U.S. field centers will begin with a focus on a roughly $3 billion cross-section of the agency's nearly $18 billion budget that could affect some 10,000 civil servants and contractors, a senior agency official said here Nov. 20. .. Roe, former director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is co-leading NASA's Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) along with her boss, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. TCAT began in 2012 but will not be in full force until after February, when NASA plans to appoint so-called capabilities leaders to monitor its 10 field centers and point out areas where two or more centers are spending money on the same things."

Keith's note: Once a decade (maybe more than once) NASA spins up an effort like this (Zero Base Review, Synthesis Team, Faster Better Cheaper, ISO 9000 etc.) The team members semi-earnestly look for overlaps and synergies, suggest how to re-tune things, and then ... (dramatic pause) all of the field centers promptly ignore the recomendations - backed by their respective congressional delegations - because: why change? We've seen this movie before. As such, you can ignore any and all "efficiency" TCAT babble from Robert Lightfoot and Lesa Roe - since the White House no longer cares about that babble (hey - where's Charlie?)

Visiting Interstellar's Spacecraft, SpaceRef

"I had an opportunity to stand next to a spaceship from the film "Interstellar" this morning and fly through a simulation of yet another spacecraft from the film. I am not going to post a review yet for "Interstellar" since I can't really discuss the film in any detail without revealing important aspects. That said, there have been trailers and other PR efforts online for months now. One thing you can't miss in these previews is the spacecraft used in the film."

Keith's 4 Nov note: I saw "Interstellar" this evening - in 70mm IMAX on the largest screen in Virginia. I saw "2001: A Space Odyssey" in Cinerama - the IMAX of the day - when the film first came out and was stunned by the experience. That happened again this evening. Interstellar is deep and a wonder to behold. It is profound and loud and yet sublime and simple - simultaneously. I am going to have to think carefully about what I write so as to not spoil it for anyone. Let's just say that you take away from Interstellar what you bring to it.

Keith's 6 Nov update: I saw the film again last night at a really nice reception and showing at the National Air & Space Museum's IMAX theater sponsored by Northrop Grumman. The cast and director were there too. The "Ranger" spacecraft will be on display starting tomorrow at the NASM Udvar Hazy facility along with an Oculus Rift demonstration of the fictional "Interstellar" world.

Past Transit Tragedies Point to a Way Forward for Virgin Galactic, Smithsonian

"Private spaceflight hit a large bump in the road to orbit last week, with Orbital Sciences' rocket explosion followed days later by Virgin Galactic's fatal spaceplane crash. But if early aviation and aerospace efforts can teach us anything, it's that the key to surviving such tragedies is transparency and learning from any mistakes. And in a counterintuitive twist, the disasters may even increase public support for spaceflight and space tourism."

Keith's note: Video of Challenger's and Columbia's loss is seared in our collective consciousness - both accidents caused prolonged self-examination and questioning as to whether it was all worth doing. Even commercial advertisements comparing consumer items to the shuttle were pulled. Yet NASA returned to flight - twice. When the shuttle fleet was retired there was exceptional interest and heated debate and overt food fights about who got the remaining shuttles - because of what they represented in people's minds. Indeed huge portions of the population demanded that NASA keep them flying. Remember the flyovers and parades? Major cities stopped everything - just to watch. Yet these very same shuttles that flew over America to such acclaim are identical to the two shuttle vehicles we all saw torn apart with their crews on board. A symbol of tragedy - twice - is now a symbol of American pride.

Keith's note: I was immediately struck by the similarity of this image (much larger uncropped version) that Lockheed Martin released today of Orion and a shot from the iconic "2001: A Space Odyssey". Or maybe I am just thinking a little bit to much about "2001" as I prepare to see "Interstellar" next week.

Orion Is Complete, Lochkeed Martin

"NASA and Lockheed Martin have completed final assembly and testing of the Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft will remain inside NASA's Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center until it rolls to launch pad 37 in November."

NASA Administrator Resigns After Leak Of Offensive Anti-Moon Email, The Onion

"I wish I could understand what would possess someone so committed to space exploration to say such ugly things about the moon," NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said, adding that he was shocked and appalled when he read Bolden's wish that the moon would "just wane itself out of existence." "But his comments were clearly inexcusable. Unfortunately, I think his resignation was the only way for NASA, and for Charles himself, to move forward."

Keith's note: (sigh) Yes folks, this is a parody. Its The Onion after all. Although it was hard to tell it was fake - until they quoted Robert Lightfoot as having refered to Charlie Bolden as "Charles" - then I knew it was fake. ;-)

Keith's note: If Harold White's warp drive research is so exciting why won't NASA openly talk about it? Why aren't REAL experts in the field raving about it? It would be entertaining (and no doubt embarrassing) to watch Harold White explain his warp drive technobabble to actual experts in the field. But we won't see White and his warp drive research in a regular scientific forum any time soon. NASA JSC is afraid to let this happen - and NASA HQ is afraid to push JSC on this issue. When the movie "Interstellar" comes out NASA is going to have to say *something* about the warp drive research they have been funding with everyone's tax dollars. If they don't say something then people are going to ask why.

White spoke at NASA Ames today. A video of this presentation is supposed to be posted on YouTube "in a month" according to ARC. The sooner that White's warp drive presentation is posted for all to hear, the sooner NASA can either endorse White's research - or not endorse it.

- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post
- JSC is Still Silent When It Comes To Their Space Drive, earlier post

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: Notes from the Center Leadership Council's Recent Retreat

"We are counting on our Product Units (PUDs) and their business development managers (BDMs) to identify and pursue opportunities for the Center make even more significant contributions to mission directorate programs and projects in collaboration with the other NASA Centers, government agencies, academia and industry. We are counting on our seven Product Line Leads (PLLs) to identify integrated, systems level, state-of-the-art multidisciplinary solutions to those Agency needs. We are counting on our Core Resource Units (CRUDs) to acquire, develop and nurture the capabilities (skills, facilities and computational tools) required to develop and implement those solutions."

INT. FRONT PORCH, FARMHOUSE - NIGHT

COOPER: (sighs) We've forgotten who we are, Donald. Explorers, pioneers. Not caretakers.

Donald nods, thoughtful. Weighs up his words.

DONALD: When I was a kid it felt like they made something new every day. Some gadget or idea. Like every day was Christmas. But six billion people ... just try to imagine that. And every last one of them trying to have it all.

He turns to Cooper.

This world isn't so bad. And Tom'll do just fine - you're the one who doesn't belong. Born forty years too late, or forty years too early. My daughter knew it, God bless her. And your kids know it. 'Specially Murph.

COOPER: We used to look up and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.

DONALD: Cooper, you were good at something and you never got a chance to do anything with it. I'm sorry. But that's not your kids' fault.

Cooper looks up at the stars above.

Keith's note: What will NASA do in terms of public outreach when "Interstellar" is released? They dropped the ball when it came to "Avatar" and the producers of "Gravity" never bothered to seek out NASA's help. This film is expected to touch deeply upon themes that point to the core of what NASA does - and will do so in a manner that leaps beyond the usual preaching to the choir that NASA does inside its own self-reinforcing echo chamber.

NASA Notice of Information Collection: Qualitative Feedback on Agency Service Delivery

"The proposed information collection activity provides a means to garner qualitative customer and stakeholder feedback in an efficient, timely manner, in accordance with the Administration's commitment to improving service delivery. By qualitative feedback we mean information that provides useful insights on perceptions and opinions, but are not statistical surveys that yield quantitative results that can be generalized to the population of study. This feedback will provide insights into customer or stakeholder perceptions, experiences and expectations, provide an early warning of issues with service, or focus attention on areas where communication, training or changes in operations might improve delivery of products or services. These collections will allow for ongoing, collaborative and actionable communications between the Agency and its customers and stakeholders. It will also allow feedback to contribute directly to the improvement of program management. The solicitation of feedback will target areas such as: Timeliness, appropriateness, accuracy of information, courtesy, efficiency of service delivery, and resolution of issues with service delivery. Responses will be assessed to plan and inform efforts to improve or maintain the quality of service offered to the public."

Keith's note: Of course NASA won't like the answers that they get back - especially the implications for the way NASA does business and what would need to be done to fix these issues. As such NASA will ignore what this study uncovers - as they do with any and all feedback that they get from other surveys. Of course, they will still check the OMB boxes for having done the study and consider the issue to have been handled.

NASA is changing the way it does business, new GC says, Washington Post

"NASA is changing the way it is doing business, spending less on traditional contracts and partnering more with the private sector and local governments to further the growth of the commercial space industry. That transition promises to be a prime preoccupation for the agency's new top lawyer, Sumara Thompson-King. Thompson-King became NASA's general counsel on June 1, replacing Michael Wholley, who held the post since 2004. She is the first woman and the first African American to lead the agency's legal department, which has about 175 attorneys."

Modernized Space Camp Allows Kids To Simulate Frustration Over Lack Of Funding, The Onion

"Aiming to provide attendees with an authentic glimpse into the nation's space program, representatives for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center announced Thursday that its newly updated Space Camp will allow children to simulate the anger and mounting frustration experienced by NASA personnel over a continual lack of funding."

Keith's note: NASA complains about not having enough money for education and public outreach -- but they can afford to pay $40,000 for lapel pins that they will just hand out to NASA employees, contractor personnel, and @NASASocial attendees.

North Korea appears to ape Nasa with space agency logo, Guardian

"The choice of a globe as the emblem for North Korea's space agency expresses the country's ideal of peaceful exploration, explains the Korean Central News Agency. The blue rings, it adds, represent satellites, and the constellation of stars shows the desire to "glorify Kim Il-sung's and Kim Jong-il's Korea as a space power". However, the state news agency neglects to mention one glaring thing: the new logo looks a lot like that of Nasa, the space agency of Pyongyang foe's the US, right down to the blue globe, lettering and swooshed ring."

- NASA Logo Appears On Lady Gaga's Head (Update)
- New NASA Logo Designs

The 5 best real-time marketing moments of the Oscars, Digiday

"3. NASA's real-life gravity tweets "Gravity" was awarded a handful of Oscars, and no brand was a bigger cheerleader than NASA. The space agency spent the night cleverly tweeting out real facts and cool images relating to gravity using the hashtag #RealGravity -- totally on-brand for NASA. The tweets generated a good amount of engagement, like this tweet which got more than 8,100 retweets and more than 3,900 favorites."

NASA Uses Gravity Oscar Wins for Promo Opp, Media Bistro

"While the film didn't win Best Picture, it did score seven statues--andNASA took the opportunity to show us once again why it rules social. The team clearly predicted at least one win for Cuaron's space odyssey, using the hashtag #RealGravity to remind the public once again that it does some pretty cool stuff out there in space with another set of impressive images."

NASA releases 'Gravity'-inspired photo set ahead of the Oscars , Marketing Gum

"Just in time for the Academy Awards, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has released a new photo set inspired by Gravity. The movie makes heavy use of computer-generated imagery, but NASA's photos show space as it really looks to the astronauts lucky enough to leave the earth's orbit. Using photos taken over the last several years, "NASA's Real-Life Images from Space" showcases astronauts, space shuttles, and some jaw-dropping views of earth. It should..."

Forget the Oscar-winning film - Nasa's real-life Gravity images of Earth, shuttles and astronauts will take your breath away, Computer Magazine

"Nasa has just outdone Hollywood by releasing these mind-blowing real life 'Gravity' images revealing incredible scenes of Earth, astronauts and space shuttles."

The 2014 Oscars Social Media Highlights, Business2community

"- Social media favors Gravity. With the film picking up a good tally of awards especially for its cinematography which is literally out of this world.
- To help out, Nasa joined in with #Gravity to share a selection of #RealGravity images taken from Space that are simply breathtaking, such as this one below."

NASA's Real 'Gravity' Photos Will Blow You Away, Mashable

"NASA sure knows how to capture the endless beauty of real space. And on Sunday, the space agency decided to connect some of that epic reality with one of the films nominated for this year's Academy Awards. Hours before the ceremony, NASA tweeted out a couple of its #RealGravity images from life in space, as a way of helping the public connect its real work with the fictional images portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film, Gravity."

Keith's note: I have no idea if this is even remotely accurate in whole or in part (seriously doubt it). But it sure is funny. Anyone who has different math, please feel free to post. According to a post on Reddit:

"The fuel costs are, according to Musk, about $400.000. Let's round that off and say 500.000, so that the empty rocket costs 56 million.

The Falcon 9 carries about 475 tonnes of propellant. If we can convert dollar bills into kerosene and oxygen perfectly, using 1 dollar bills and assuming a mass of one gram, we get a fuel cost of 475 million dollars. So, now a Falcon 9 costs 531 million dollars, and lifts 13150 kg. That's 40380 dollars/kg. The space shuttle cost 1.5 billion dollars per flight including everything, and could get 25 tonnes into LEO, so that's 60.000 dollars/kg.

Holy crap, you're right. (don't take this too serious.)

Edit: If we can convert dollar bills into kerosene and oxygen perfectly. Stop telling me that paper doesn't burn hot enough."

Beyoncé: Sampling The Sounds of Tragedy For Pop Music, Earlier post

Cosmonauts Take Olympic Torch on a Space Walk

"Two Russian cosmonauts clad in Orlan spacesuits conducted an out-of-this-world hand-off of the Olympic torch at the start of Saturday's 5-hour, 50-minute spacewalk to perform maintenance on the International Space Station."

Sending Olympic Torch to Space, Russia Flaunts Inspiration Superiority (Op-Ed), Leroy Chiao, Space.com

"Over the last month, the blockbuster films "Gravity" and "Ender's Game" have generated more popular interest in spaceflight than actual missions currently flying. There are many reasons for this, and Americans should not lament those reasons, but understand and embrace them, and create strategies to exploit them. Strictly speaking, as part of the federal government, NASA is not allowed to advertise, but one wonders if the envelope could be stretched a bit. "

NASA's Confused Policy on Advertising, earlier post

"I have lost count how many times people at NASA have told me that they cannot self-promote, advertise, lobby, or otherwise try to use standard marketing tools to inform the public of the things that they do. They always cite dire Congressional prohibitions against such activities. Then they go off and totally violate these prohibitions with advertising procurements such as this one. I am not certain that they actually know what it is they are allowed or not allowed to do and just throw this answer out when they do not want to do something."

Keith's note: It would seem that Lady Gaga was on the YouTube music awards last night and was behaving oddly (even for her). If you watch the video of her performance you can clearly see that she is wearing a baseball cap with a NASA "meatball" logo on it - except instead of "N-A-S-A" it spells out "D-O-P-E". I have no idea if this means anything. But she does sell millions of records.

You can buy this merchandise at Dope.com

Lady Gaga to Sing in Space in 2015, US

"No one ever said she was down-to-earth! In early 2015, Lady Gaga will become the first artist to sing in outer space, Us Weekly can exclusively reveal. The "Dope" performer, 27, is set to blast off in a Virgin Galactic ship and belt out a single track during the Zero G Colony high-tech musical festival in New Mexico."

Keith's update: I guess Gaga missed Chris Hadfield's performance in space earlier this year.

Can Gravity's Thrills Inspire Viewers To Reinvest In NASA?, Forbes

"Despite the popularity of films like "Gravity," public interest in NASA and space travel appears to be in hibernation. Although movie crews are inventing new technology to explore space on the big screen, Americans' real-life space program continues to languish. With an estimated budget of $100 million, a multi-year production schedule (it took four and a half years to complete), and minimal interference from Warner Bros., the making of "Gravity" serves as something of a microcosm for what it takes to explore space in the real world: vision, commitment, and a lot of financial backing."

Keith's note: It certainly would be nice if there was a boost from the public after seeing "Gravity" for NASA funding. But is giving NASA more money the only option? Private sector initiatives are becoming more bold and commercial options are increasingly capable.

- Gravity Review: In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Dream, earlier post
- We Get It Neil Tyson: You Hated "Gravity" (Update), earlier post
- Two Takes on the Orbital Mechanics in "Gravity", earlier post

Keith's note: Here is the original color version by Michael Ramirez. You can share your opinions with him on his Facebook page or the IBD editorials Facebook page
or post a comment here. What is truly disgusting is that the comment originates from the part of the cloud where the crew cabin was. This man Ramirez is sick and pathetic.

Keith's note: Neil Tyson will be talking about "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts" on Wednesday from 9:00 - 10:00 am EDT at the National Academy of Sciences' Human Spaceflight panel. WebEx Access Call-in toll-free number: 1-(866) 668-0721 Conference Code: 448 560 9647. If none of these things work check here.

NAS will only allow 150 people to watch on WebEx. What is baffling is why the NAS can't simply do a Google Hangout. All you need is a laptop and the potential reach of their "public" events would be vastly enhanced. And it is free too. Of course, the NAS goes out of its way not to tell anyone about this "public" presentation. Only wonks and media can usually figure out what's going on in these meetings.

Keith's update: If you did not tune in to Tyson's presentation you did not miss much. He referred to slides a lot - but the NAS did not show his slides. Nor did the NAS capture the presentation for posting on YouTube. Based on his somewhat rambling presentation this morning, it is clear Tyson is not a big fan of commercial space. He thinks that only governments can lead the way in space and that commerce can only follow. He said that due to risk and expense one cannot valuate space from a commercial perspective. He also more or less dismissed the notion out of hand that America has ever really done anything in space for scientific, exploratory, or inspirational purposes and thinks that everything done in space can be traced back to war funding. He also dismissed the notion that investing in NASA has significant economic payback.

NAS Space Studies Board Quietly Announces Online Public Access After Event Starts, earlier post

Keith's note: This incomprehensible anime video from JAXA seems to be about some bratty nerd girls who wear NASA and JAXA jackets, get into cat fights, get married, and work on the Joint NASA/JAXA GPM mission or something like that. Yes, I know there are subtitles, and (minimal) narration in Japanese, but the pictures tell an odd narrative. But it looks cool.

Who knew? German insomniacs watch NASA space feed all night

"A quirky habit of German insomniacs and "chill-out" music fans has come to world attention thanks to the U.S. government shutdown. "Space Night," a nearly 20-year-old late-night broadcast by Bavarian Television, provides a music-sharing platform against a backdrop of NASA's video feed from the International Space Station. But the 15-day-old U.S. government shutdown has idled the NASA archivists responsible for relaying the imagery beyond Mission Control, cutting off fresh backdrops to mix with the music for "Space Night" broadcasts that were to have launched a new season Nov. 1."

Keith's note: FYI Space Station Soma and Mission Control at Soma FM stream NASA-flavored music 24/7.

Keith's note: Clearly Dr. Tyson is unaware of the cross training and multiple skills possessed by NASA astronauts. Astronaut Scott Parazynski did a solar array repair on STS-120. He's an MD. John Grunsfeld did a number of arduous Hubble EVAs involving hardware repairs - no astronomy. He's an astronomer. Sally Ride (a physicist) was a robotic arm expert as was elementary school teacher Barbara Morgan. Rick Linnehan is a veterinarian and did a Hubble repair EVA (with Grunsfled the astronomer). With one exception, every human who has walked on the Moon doing geology was not a geologist. And so on. There are endless examples of people in the astronaut office trained in one area becoming experts in others. That's why they were selected in the first place. But Tyson did not bother to do even superficial research before Tweeting. So much for accuracy.

If you read Tyson's tweets you'll see that he clearly did not like "Gravity" - a movie that is breaking box office records (a movie that actual astronauts seem to really like). This is rather odd for someone (Tyson) who complains about the way that space exploration is portrayed to the public. The public is speaking with their wallets. He's not listening.

Alas, it will be interesting to see what nitpicking is done when the reboot of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" comes out - with Tyson as the host. I am certain he'll have music and sound effects during scenes depicting events that occur in space - i.e. sound in a vacuum - even though its totally inaccurate from a technical perspective.

Keith's note: Around 1:00 am EDT Tyson tweeted: "My Tweets hardly ever convey opinion. Mostly perspectives on the world. But if you must know, I enjoyed #Gravity very much." Contrary to his claim, his tweets regularly contain opinion. Usually, that is why his tweets are interesting - unless he's wrong, that is.


'Gravity': Panel of astro-experts on the science behind the film, Entertainment Weekly

"Would she, a medical doctor, have been needed for a spacewalk in the first place?

Leroy Chiao: It's certainly plausible. It's not at all uncommon for medical doctors of different backgrounds to be trained for a spacewalk, because if you show an aptitude for that, then it doesn't matter what your background is, whether you're an engineer like me or a medical doctor like some of my colleagues. You would be trained to do spacewalks."

Too Bad NASA is Not NSA

Replica Enterprise bridge used to sell surveillance to Congress, Boing Boing

"A long, fascinating profile of NSA "cowboy" Gen. Keith Alexander in Foreign Policy reveals that the top spook is fan of science fiction movies and built his old command room to look like the bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He sold members of Congress by letting them sit in the big chair and "play Picard."

- Video of top NSA spook Gen'l Alexander's Starship Enterprise clone/Information Dominance Center, Boing Boing

- The NSA showed off its 'information dominance' from the bridge of the Starship 'Enterprise' (with actual photos), The Verge

Ground Control to Major Frog, Burrito Justice (w/cool frog GIF)

"Ground Control to Major Frog
Commencing countdown engines on
WTF are you doing in the pond
Check ignition and may frog's love be with you"


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Culture category.

Congress is the previous category.

Data is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.