"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"
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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 email@example.com +1.281.483.0484. Harold "Sonny" White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org +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 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."
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.
"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.
"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."
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
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."
"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.
"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.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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.
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
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 (email@example.com) and .cc both me and David Nayles. This way the problem gets resolved quickly."
"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."
"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."
"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.
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.
"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."
"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?
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?
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."
"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.
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
"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."
"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.''
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.
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."
"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."
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.
"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."
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
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.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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.
"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.
"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."
"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
"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."
"We used to look up in the sky and wonder - at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."
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.
What (if anything) do you think NASA should do?
Oh yes, NASA is funding a warp drive project. But they do not want to talk about it.
Why? What are they afraid of?
The researcher behind all of this is Harold G. White. According to people.nasa.gov here is how you contact him:email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 281.482.0178
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- NASA's Super Secret Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- Warp Drive Research at NASA JSC, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
"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."
"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.
"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."
"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..."
"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 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
"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
"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.
"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.
Thoughts on @neiltyson ? Disagree w pessimistic view on commercial space future & we have the extraordinary members to back it up!— CSF Spaceflight (@csf_spaceflight) October 23, 2013
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.
"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."
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
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."
"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."
- 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"
NASA is turning science fiction into fact (Interview with NASA ARC Center Director Pete Worden), New Scientist
"Is science fiction a big source of inspiration? Here, there's almost a secret handshake among engineers who have read lots of science fiction. It lets you dream - how can we make that technology real, how can we make a better future?
What are your dreams for exploring space? A principal tenet of science fiction is that there are planets out there with intelligent life. For most of the history of astrophysics we haven't been able to see those worlds, but we are starting to see planets like Earth. I dream of going to those worlds. That's my life's inspiration.
What excites you most about your work? This century, even more than the last one, is the space century - especially with the private sector and many more countries getting involved. The stuff we're doing at Ames is turning science fiction into fact. This is the coolest job I have ever had."
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will hold a media availability at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida at 1 p.m. EDT Friday, June 28.
Bolden, Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana and officials from the state of Florida will discuss NASA's future spaceflight programs and initiatives.
The event will not be broadcast on NASA Television or online."
Marc's note: The media finally get an opportunity to ask Bolden questions but only if you are there in person. How hard would it have been to broadcast this event on NASA TV? How about taking questions via Social Media though "AskNASA"? For those who can't be there they'll just have to keep tabs on Twitter to see if anyone tweets the Q&A or for articles to come out later.
"Boldly go where no one has gone before! The Ames Exchange has bought out an entire theater for the NASA Ames workforce to view the new Star Trek Into Darkness film at AMC Mercado 20 at 4:30 PM on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Hard-badged employees may pick up their complimentary ticket at the Beyond Galileo gift shop starting this Thursday, May 16, 2013, but hurry, tickets are limited and on a first-come, first-served basis."
Keith's note: As previously noted the producers of this movie did not want any NASA help and they made that very clear to NASA.
"The cast members of the Tony Award-nominated "Matilda" are arguably all stars. This week, they chatted with a man closer to the actual cosmic ones. About three dozen cast members - including many children - packed a small room near Times Square on Tuesday to speak to an astronaut aboard the International Space Station via a 30-minute live satellite hookup provided by NASA."
"If you follow the Twitter feed of NASA's Johnson Space Center, you'll know that Skrillex has been spending the afternoon at the space agency's facilities in Houston, Texas. What has he been doing there?"
HiRISE is set to capture MRO's laser weapon test on Phobos. Should be a great image.— HiRISE (@HiRISE) April 1, 2013
Keith's note: During a press conference Monday morning, NASA Administrator Bolden and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) will announce what they characterize as a "a bold, ambitious effort" to take two seemingly improbable launch systems and combine them into one even more improbable system. The Strato-SLS (SSLS) will enable even bigger payloads into orbit, as the 5 SSMEs and twin advanced boosters won't ignite until the Stratolaunch plane brings the rocket to an altitude of nearly 70,000 feet. This architecture will not just boost the SLS's initial capability from 70 mT to 200 mT, but will ensure a rapidly reusable system that can launch every month for under $100 million. Sen. Shelby, along with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Administrator Bolden have volunteered to ride the first crewed launch of the SSLS in 2017. "We can save the taxpayers money on training since 2 out of the 3 crew have already been trained and have flown together" Bolden is prepared to state. OMB sources who declined to be identified eagerly assured NASAWatch that countless taxpayer dollars will be fully wasted on this national strategic need. Indeed, OMB has already taken to calling the SSLS the "Space Goose". Larger image
"The LOIRP team managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft between 1966-67. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the project has been run on a shoestring budget. The LOIRP effort is housed in an abandoned McDonalds burger joint at Moffett Field, California (also known as "McMoons"). The LOIRP folks used spare parts bought on eBay, discarded government equipment, new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in 50 year old documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."
Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, RocketHub
Keith's earlier note: Only a few hours left. The
$50,000 $52,000 $53,000 $56,000 level was just passsed - more than 2/3 70% 76% of the total fundraising goal of $75,000. Over 410 446 468 502 funders have made donations ranging from $10 to $5,000. Proof positive that people are willing to pay for space exploration out of their pockets - even if it is for data recovery from missions that flew almost half a century ago.
Keith's update: The final funding level achieved is $62,560 - 84% of the goal - from 548 donors. A special thanks to Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing for being the project's biggest fan.
House Renames Flight Center After Neil Armstrong
"The House of Representatives today approved a resolution to rename the Dryden Flight Research Center, located in southern California, the "Neil Armstrong Research Center." H.R. 667 also re-designates the surrounding test range to honor Hugh Dryden, a prominent aeronautical engineer."
House Republicans are over the moon about sequestration, Washington Post
"The lone Democrat to speak, Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.), noted the irony in the vote. "We will do our renaming today," she said, and then "we will take an ax hammer to NASA's budget on March 1, at the end of this week, taking out $894 million from an already strapped budget. I dare say future generations will not be inspired by what this Congress will do."
Keith's update: What are the acronym implications of this? There is already an "ARC" at NASA. I do not think "NARC" will be used too often ...
"10) Re: section 1.4.2 "Directed Topic Workshops" Is it required for the step 1 proposals to provide a list of likely team participants, or is it sufficient to have then main workshop organizers assigned? The title and investigators must be fixed in the Step 1 proposal. If, say, Dewey, Cheatham and Howe are involved in the organization of the workshop, then they should be listed as team members in the Step 1 proposal. If you wish only to invite Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, then you may or may not choose to include this information in the abstract/ brief proposal summary of your Step 1 proposal, but they should not be included as team members."
"Nearly four years after launching its Kepler space telescope to search for worlds outside our solar system, NASA officials confirmed Tuesday they had yet to find a planet with sufficient resources to support the space-exploration agency and its 18,000 employees."
Thursday, December 13, 2012
JSC TODAY HEADLINES
1. Joint Leadership Team Web Poll
2. Gangnam Style Parody 'NASA Johnson Style' to be Screened in Teague ...
Annual Embarrassing NASA Holiday Videos Appear, earlier post
"Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the fifth installment in the National Intelligence Council's series aimed at providing a framework for thinking about the future. As with previous editions, we hope that this report will stimulate strategic thinking by identifying critical trends and potential discontinuities. We distinguish between megatrends, those factors that will likely occur under any scenario, and game-changers, critical variables whose trajectories are far less certain. In this volume, we expanded our coverage of disruptive technologies, devoting a separate section to it in the work. To accomplish that, we engaged with research scientists at DoE laboratories at Sandia, Oak Ridge, and NASA in addition to entrepreneurs and consultants in Silicon Valley and Santa Fe. We have also devoted strong attention to economic factors and the nexus of technology and economic growth."
Keith's note: Funny how NASA constantly gets tapped by other agencies when it comes to blueskying futuristic out of the box ideas - but when it comes to implementing these ideas inside of NASA ... well, that's another story.
Caption text from The Wilson Parrot Foundation - as written: "This is Major General, USMC Ret., Astronaot and now Directer of NASA, Charlie Bolton being a True ParrotHead!!"
Keith's note: Captions, anyone? I'll start: "Although they both poop on me, I like birds more than I like reporters".
"Ray Bradbury - author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and many more literary classics - died this morning in Los Angeles, at the age of 91."
"Ray Bradbury is mad at President Obama, but it's not about the economy, the war or the plan to a construct a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. "He should be announcing that we should go back to the moon," says the iconic author .... "We should never have left there. We should go to the moon and prepare a base to fire a rocket off to Mars and then go to Mars and colonize Mars. Then when we do that, we will live forever."
"The expectations are sky-high for Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, the director's first film since 2006s Children of Men. In fact, between the A-list cast (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), its intriguing sci-fi premise, its ambitious long shots, and gushing praise from colleagues like Guillermo del Toro, we have plenty of reason to believe the film could be his most brilliant yet. On the other hand, this wouldn't be the first time we've been dead wrong about a movie this early on."
Keith's note: (sigh) another film that NASA decided not to cooperate with.
Keith's update: NASA PAO paints a contradictory story to what other sources (quite reliable ones) have provided. PAO says that NASA actually reached out to the producers of "Gravity" on their own inititiative early on but that the studio desired no assistance or input from NASA.
"Anybody can make something go boom. Controlling it is hard," said former NASA associate administrator Scott Pace, director of space policy at George Washington University. ... "In many ways, the worst enemy of NASA is `Star Trek'," Pace said. "Captain Picard says `engage' and the ship moves. And people think `How hard can this be?'"
Keith's note: This is an odd thing for Scott Pace to say given that he's a very smart guy. If anything, Star Trek is often NASA's best friend. For several generations it has been Star Trek and other popular TV shows and movies that have so totally embedded the value and need to explore space within the minds of the citizens whose taxes keep NASA going. When cuts are proposed for NASA, what memes do supporters and energized taxpayers cite? Of course they use lines and themes about exploration and inspiration that you hear Star Trek characters saying.
When everything goes right, NASA loves to bask in the glowing PR and does not deter people from lofty comparisons to Star Trek. But when something goes wrong (or might go wrong) they like to lower expectations and say "Rocket science is hard". And yet, NASA seems to do it right nearly all the time, leading one to logically ask 'so how hard can this be'? This is the problem with NASA. They want to have it both ways.
"I've been at NASA Langley for more than 30 years," said Cheryl Cleghorn, the center's outreach and protocol coordinator. "I've seen lots of changes in the last five or six years." Many of them involved money. "Before, NASA was given its budget and did what it was going to do with it," Cleghorn said. "Now we're collaborating and competing for additional funds for the center." The key word here is "partnership," and Cleghorn brought together 17 women and three men from Langley who might be called upon to dine with potential partners who could bring business to the center. They were there to learn to "Outclass the Competition: Dine Like a Diplomat."
Keith's note: I'll be the first to agree that most NASA employees have little or no experince in the business environment out in the real world - and it shows. But I am a little baffled as to why the agency is spending money and time to teach people how to eat.
"For nearly three years, millions of gamers have used physics in the battle between birds and pigs in the video game Angry Birds. In cooperation with NASA, Finland-based Rovio Entertainment, creator of the Angry Birds franchise, announced its newest game, "Angry Birds Space," on Thursday, March 8. NASA and Rovio are working together to teach people about physics and space exploration through the internationally successful puzzle game."
Keith's note: I, for one, welcome our new angry avian overlords.
OIG: Review of NASA's Lessons Learned Information System
"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA's project managers do not routinely use LLIS to search for lessons identified by other projects, nor do they routinely contribute new information to LLIS. Consequently, we found that the LLIS has been marginalized in favor of other NASA knowledge sharing system components and is of diminishing and questionable value. Specifically, other than the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, no NASA Center consistently contributed information to LLIS from 2005 through 2010."
Huntsville to have co-pilot in NASA (editorial), Huntsville Times
"Marshall Space Flight Center Director Robert Lightfoot's promotion to NASA headquarters should bode well for Marshall as NASA focuses on development of America's next generation rockets. ... Huntsville lawyer Mark McDaniel, who served on the national NASA advisory council from 2000 to 2005, said Lightfoot will be a key player in decisions by the NASA administrator, president and Congress. "In Washington, access is everything. The associate administrator will be right down the hall from the administrator and deputy administrator."
Keith's note: So in other words, it would seem that McDaniel et al expect Lightfoot to put MSFC concerns (e.g. SLS) ahead of the rest of the agency due to his "access'. Yet these same people complain when other centers get their way. Hmm. Lightfoot's position is at NASA "Headquarters" and it concerns the management of the entire agency - not sending things down to Huntsville because he owns a house there. I'm not sure that the Huntsville folks undersand that.
Keith's note: @seanherron posted this somewhere and it has been making the rounds. It is so true it hurts. Sorry if this is getting around, Sean. Its your fault for being accurate. Click on image for larger version.
Keith's update: Well, someone@nasa has a slightly different take on things. To be honest this resonates better with my experience as an actual NASA employee. The artist said "Thanks for the "Working at NASA" link. I very much enjoyed it, so much so that I made my own - which was surprisingly therapeutic." Click on image to enlarge.
Space Droids Using Sign Language?, earlier post on 15 November 2011
"Background: I worked for more than a decade as a professional certified (educational) sign language interpreter. This idea occurred to me when I was looking at this picture and instantly wondered what Robonaut-2 "wanted" or why it was seemingly in the process of saying "here" or maybe "give". Imagine how fast a video of Robonaut-2 saying something in American Sign Language from space would go viral. NASA could have a competition wherein people submit questions for it to answer. NASA already has a signing astronaut and SMD and NLSI already put out books in Braille. Just a thought."
Keith's note: @AstroRobonaut just tweeted: "Did you catch that? I don't have a voice, but I sent you a message -- Hello world ... in sign language!"
Keith's note: A note for all of the "citizen journalists" who will be participating in the budget briefing on Monday at NASA HQ. This is a great idea - but this is by no means a "first". There is a long road - one traveled by others before you to where you will be - and it started more than 10 years ago, before "blogging" was even a word, when there were no Tweetups, and the first citizen journalists dared to claim that they were legitimate media and demanded access to their government. As such, for those of us who helped pave the way (inside and outside of NASA), do us proud. Don't waste the opportunity. Ask something useful.
Brian Welch would find this all to be rather fascinating. He had his hands full just dealing with only me ...
Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #askNASA NASA will try and answer some of them.
Letter from the NASA Inspector General to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, 4 February 2000. Topic: NASA Watch's application for press accreditation. Note: by this point NASA "RIF" Watch had been online for more than 3 years.
"The editor of NASA Watch has twice applied for press accreditation from NASA and was rejected both times. The first application was a verbal request to NASA Headquarters PAO for credentials to attend the launch of the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft in June 1997. That request was verbally rejected on the grounds that NASA Watch was not legitimate press but rather was closer to a "vanity press." The editor of NASA Watch again applied (via email) for press credentials to NASA Headquarters PAO in July 1999 (see Appendix B) and was again rejected (see Appendix C) on the grounds that NASA Watch did not meet the PAO's new policy for press accreditation (see Appendix D). NASA has no formal process for appealing rejection of press credentials."
Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, October 1996
"Donald Teague, president of the NASA Headquarters Professional Association, says the RIF Watch site provides invaluable information. "You have to turn it on each morning to see what's going on," he says. 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."
"Officially, the White House says Obama never went to Mars. "Only if you count watching Marvin the Martian," Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, tells Danger Room. But that's exactly what a secret chrononaut wants you to believe."
"According to two guys named Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings, Obama, then known as one "Barry Soetoro," joined them and seven other young Americans, including the current director of DARPA, in a project that involved teleporting to the Red Planet through a so-called "jump room."
"I just had a chance to see the new film "Apollo 18". As I am certain is the case with all of my fellow space cadets, I felt some intellectual trepidation in advance of seeing this film. How anyone could launch a Saturn V without the folks in Cocoa Beach noticing on Christmas day 1974 being one of the more improbable things. But you get past those nagging little facts at the very onset of the film. Through a deft use of real Apollo era footage and re-created footage (they keep telling you it is real), the film really manages to suspend lingering disbelief rather quickly. Often times its like watching the old grainy 70s era NASA features that NASA TV runs after midnight."
NASA reaches its outer limit, LA Times
"But after initially touting "Apollo 18" as one of its upcoming fiction film collaborations, NASA -- which, for the record, says the last manned mission to the moon was Apollo 17 in 1972 -- has begun to back away from the movie. "Apollo 18 is not a documentary," said Bert Ulrich, NASA's liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations. "The film is a work of fiction, and we always knew that. We were minimally involved with this picture. We never even saw a rough cut. The idea of portraying the Apollo 18 mission as authentic is simply a marketing ploy. Perhaps a bit of a 'Blair Witch Project' strategy to generate hype."
"For the viral campaign, the film's official website has a subpage that updates periodically with several documents from before, after, and during the mission. The latest documents are internal memos at NASA that show how they knew something was up."
"Four members of the joint STS-135/Expedition 28 crews are able to spend part of their last shared time onboard the International Space Station performing floating exercises that can't be done in Earth's gravity. Inside the Harmony Node 2 module, are NASA astronauts Mike Fossum (top), Expedition 28 flight engineer, and Doug Hurley, STS-135 pilot; and Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer. The crew member at bottom is partially obscured and is unidentified."
Keith's note: What's that - you don't know what "planking" is?
According to email@example.com: "The LCS SE&I group celebrated the launch of STS-135 with homemade Italian bread and cold cuts!! Checkout this work of art!!"
"Most NASA 'insiders' rely on NASAWatch.com for timely NASA news. Run by a former NASA engineer with an attitude, Keith Cowing gives readers an unofficial [interesting] perspective on space news. Sometimes shocking, always interesting. Take a look NASA Watch."
Please visit NASAology.com for more cartoons.
"The subject guidelines endorses doing away with the term "shall" to mandate requirements and using the term "must" instead. These guidelines were reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel who determined that these guidelines are arguably not mandatory for most of what we do, but prudent to implement across- the- board and use "must" instead of "shall." Therefore, NPR 1400.1, NASA Directives and Charters Procedural Requirements, will be adjusted to include the term "must," to denote mandatory action prior to approval. This requirement will be effective when NPR 1400.1 is approved. Please inform your directives reviewers and writers."
Keith's 8 June update: Nannette Jennings at NASA just posted this in the NASAwatch comments section:
NASA will continue to use the term "shall." The following updated e-mail was distributed to the Agency's Directives Managers on June 1: The following provides an update to the subject e-mail sent May 24, 2011: As stated in the initial e-mail, the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) reviewed the subject guidelines and determined that the guidelines are arguably not mandatory for most of what we do, but prudent to implement across- the- board and use "must" instead of "shall." OGC was asked to review these guidelines again and their view is that using term "must" instead of "shall" does not apply to internal directives, but can be implemented if the Agency decides to. Further, the Office of Management and Budget was consulted and they confirmed that using the term "must" IS NOT a requirement. It's up to the agencies to use the term. Therefore, the Agency WILL continue to use the term "shall" to denote mandatory requirements.
Speaking for myself, I'd be more confused about official "shall" and "must" usage guidelines at NASA than I was at the onset - now that OGC has clarified the matter, that is. Apparently at NASA, there is no "must" or "shall" involved with the use of the words "must" or "shall"...
Bill Gerstenmaier on the DC Variable, NASA PM Challenge
"Dramatic changes in information and news circulate through blogs, and social media has impacted NASA greatly. While the initial reaction may be to control these outlets, Gerstenmaier has taken a different approach. It has not been uncommon for him to finish a Flight Readiness Review for the shuttle and have a report out about it before leaving the building. Instead of suppressing communication within the reviews, he has invited his public affairs officer to attend and tweet updates. Doing this has enabled him to tell a better NASA story and actually stay in front of the blogs. "Instead of trying to slow down communication, recognize that communication is diverse and fast. How can you now participate in it and use it to your advantage?"
Sony Pictures Adapting Sex on the Moon, Coming Soon
"Sony Pictures has picked up the film rights to Ben Mezrich's "Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History". The Social Network was based on Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires." Scott Rudin, Michael DeLuca and Dana Brunetti, who produced The Social Network, will again produce and Kevin Spacey will again executive produce."
Sex on the Moon, Amazon.com (in bookstores July 2011)
"Thad convinced his girlfriend and another female accomplice, both NASA interns, to break into an impregnable laboratory at NASA's headquarters--past security checkpoints, an electronically locked door with cipher security codes, and camera-lined hallways--and help him steal the most precious objects in the world: the moon rocks."
Keith's note: Yes, I know that NASA Headquarters is in Washington, DC - not Houston, TX. but do the movie producers know this? (Does JSC?)
"What damage did they do? The young thieves did more than just try to sell off a collection of lunar samples worth as much as $21 million. In the process, they also contaminated them, making them virtually useless to the scientific community. They also destroyed three decades worth of handwritten research notes by a NASA scientist that had been locked in the safe."
"Well, this doesn't happen every day. In yesterday's post, I talked about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's walk across the lunar surface back in 1969 and wondered, how come they walked such a modest distance? Less than a hundred yards from their lander?"
Keith's note: Hmm, do you believe this traditional, boring version (as told by Armstrong) or the version below with much better special effects?
"Holy conspiracy! The first trailer for Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon is here, and while it isn't full of the director's trademark explodey touch, that title is starting to make a bit more sense. Get ready for everything you thought you knew about the moon landing to be thrown out the window!"
Hi res trailers here
"Among those who tasted the cosmically inspired dishes during the show were former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and current astronauts Leland Melvin and Sandra Magnus. The 'Top Chef' cooks received the challenge at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland during a video message from astronauts Timothy "T.J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson on the International Space Station."
Keith's note: Yea, yea, yea. NASA Edge found out how they actually make this stuff at NASA:
How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad... 23 years ago, Ars Technica
"To understand the thinking that led to the design of the Star Trek PADD, we spoke to some of the people involved in production of ST:TNG (as well as other Star Trek TV series and films), including Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler. All three were involved in various aspects of production art for Star Trek properties, including graphic design, set design, prop design, visual effects, art direction, and more. We also discussed their impressions of the iPad and how eerily similar it is to their vision of 24th century technology, how science fiction often influences technology, and what they believe is the future of human-machine interaction."
"Once upon a time, a bunch of guys got together with a crazy idea - build rockets that go farther and faster than mankind had ever gone before. It's nice to know that America still builds rockets ..."
This week at Cape Canaveral saw the red, white and blue honored by one of the most historic of American traditions. It also saw local leaders both working to improve the economic future of the Space Coast region and acknowledging the benefits of the shuttle era extending into another year.
Successful science communication: A case study, Ars Technica
"It is no secret that, in general, i.e. outside of dedicated science reporting venues and the occasional medical report on the evening news, the scientific community does a craptastic job of communicating with the general public. While I think we at Nobel Intent do it admirably, we are but an infinitesimal sliver in the pie of science. A report that appeared in a recent edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights a case study of effective science communication and deconstructs it to show what parts may be generally applicable to other areas of science."
"Hacking for Humanity", OSTP
"Hacking for Humanity"--never thought you'd hear that phrase, right? Well, Google, Microsoft, NASA, The World Bank, and Yahoo! have joined forces to turn that into a reality and bring us Random Hacks of Kindness, an initiative that brings together the sustainable development, disaster risk management, and software developer communities to solve real-world problems with technology."
Keith's note: Nice idea. Sounds like a worthy cause. I have always wanted to see how one of these events works. Too bad no one outside of a small group of digerati at NASA knew about it until the last minute. This notice was posted at OSTP's blog at 5:05 pm on 3 June 2010 regarding an event that runs from 5-6 June. That's little more than 36 hours notice. On the event link referenced by the OSTP posting they make mention of a reception at the State Department on 4 June that required registration on 31 May i.e. 4 days prior to the first official posting at OSTP. In other words, only a select few even knew about this event. And even if you saw this posting at OSTP and followed the subsequent link to the event registration page you'd need a time machine in order to attend the reception.
In addition, there is no mention of this event at NASA's main home page, news page, NASA CIO page, NASA IPP, Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, International and Interagency Relations, Office of the Chief Technologist, etc. even though CIO and CTO staff at NASA HQ and several field centers are participants in the event -- and all of these offices would certainly seem to have some interest in an event with the State Department, OSTP, and the World Bank - one with a global outreach context. Yet if you go to the RHOK website you see NASA's logo.
Clearly, based on OSTP's posting and the NASA branding on the RHOK website, this is an activity officially sanctioned by NASA. Yet no one at the agency seems to have been at all interested in getting people outside a small circle of usual suspects to participate. Yet another example of closed openness and minimal transparency at NASA. When this sort of stealth planning is standard fare at NASA, how the agency ever expects to practice what they preach with regard to being "open" and "responsive" to the public simply escapes me.
Keith's update: Based on the registration list there were between 5-10 NASA employees at this NASA-endorsed/supported event. The focus of RHOK was the development of products for use in a wide variety of applications domestically and internationally. Given that NASA was officially involved, I wonder if the participants will be producing a summary report of their activities and links to the products that they developed. One would think that the NASA CIO would be responsible for this.
Keith's note: On 7 May 2007 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited NASA GSFC. Apparently NASA Administrator Michael Griffin did not understand the protocol that goes with attending a reigning monarch in a public event. Note his awkward posture and the way that the security guys made him stand back when he got too close to the Queen.
And to all of you who wonder why I posted this video: Mike Griffin purposefully and deliberately continues to insert himself into undermining the Obama Administrations' space policy. The same awkward approach apparent in this video is evident in his current efforts to torpedo what NASA is trying to do. In so doing he makes himself totally relevant to the things that NASA Watch covers.
Sean O'Keefe, Dan Goldin, Dick Truly etc. do not do this. Hence you do not see them featured on NASA Watch. Alas, Mike Griffin just can't fight the urge to fiddle with things and continues to be a factor. As such, he's on NASA Watch's radar. That's how it works folks.
Space, the designer's frontier, Boston Globe
"Ideas asked four graphic designers to come up with a new emblem for the 21st-century space agency, to conjure a vision of NASA that fits the present."
Keith's note: I still like my "wormball" logo concept.
Keith's note: With the popularity of retro TV shows such as "Mad Men" comes a second look at how we used to advertise things in the 1960s - products, ideas, etc. The early space age was an exciting time when we were doing things no one had done before - and we were pretty proud of doing it. Some of the artwork is rather classy and, with a few tweaks, might even work today. If you go to this page at io9 you will some examples of ads from the dawn of space exploration.
"... Or the American Bosch Arma Corporation showing off, in Fortune, its "Cosmic Butterfly," a solar-powered electrically propelled vehicle to ferry passengers and cargo across the solar system. Most Americans never saw these concoctions, but now they have been collected and dissected by Megan Prelinger, an independent historian and space buff, in a new book, "Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962." It is being published on May 25 by Blast Books."
Dancing with the Stars Season 10 Cast Lineup Annoucements, Buzzy Bloggers
"The Dancing with the Stars' Season 10 Cast includes Pamela Anderson, Chad Ochocinco, Aiden Turner, Erin Andrews, Shannen Doherty, Buzz Aldrin, Niecy Nash, Nicole Scherzinger,Evan Lysacek, Kate Gosselin."
Famed space artist Robert McCall, 90, dies, Collectspace
"An artist whose visions of the past, present, and future of space exploration have graced U.S. postage stamps, NASA mission patches, and the walls of the Smithsonian, Robert McCall died on Friday of a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 90."
The late, great Robert McCall, Miles O'Brien
"When the congregation decided to add a small, chapel-in-the-round for smaller ceremonies a few years ago, they called upon this artistic pair in their midst to design the stained-glass windows. ... Not long after it was finished, and not long after the Challenger disaster, the widow of the commander of the doomed flight, June Scobee visited here. After gazing into the glass and reflecting, she told the McCall's she knew where her husband was. The McCalls' eyes glisten as they recount the story."
Challenger Center Mourns the Death of Space Artist Robert T. McCall, Challenger Center
"Bob's artistic talent and imagination helped us to create the concept and design for Challenger Center, and he remained a close friend and supporter. My heart goes out to his wife Louise and his entire family," said June Scobee Rodgers, Challenger Center's Founding Chairman. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in McCall's honor to the Challenger Space Center of Arizona, 21170 North 83rd Ave, Peoria, AZ 85382, www.AZChallenger.org."
NSS's Annual ISDC: A good barometer of Society's health, Guest post by Ian Malone
One of the premier space exploration advocacy groups is the National Space Society, (NSS). Formed in 1987, the NSS has established chapters across the country and around the globe. For much of its history the NSS has been a powerful force promoting manned spaceflight. However, much like NASA's Public Affairs Office, the NSS has lost touch with the people it is supposed to represent. The NSS's upper echelons until recently were massively instrumental in guiding the future of manned spaceflight.
"Those who read Arthur C. Clarke's novelization of the movie will remember that he described this device as the "Newspad," something that was used by people of the future (as envisioned in 1968) to watch TV and read newspapers. You can read the full description of the device after the break -- it's described as a newsreader, with two-digit codes for each article online, and a constant stream of information from the hourly updates on "electronic papers."
"Together, Gene Ross, my mother, Sharon, and myself, have kept the Outpost Tavern going for the last thirty years, it has stayed open. My Mom and Gene being the bulk of it, I was meant to be the "Closer" of this deal! J Good or bad, whatever anyone thinks of how we did it, we kept it open for you!
However, like many good things in life, sometimes "we" are not in charge. In this case, the property that the OP sits on has been going through many changes ownership-wise, since Pete Wright died, and there has always been a certain air of uncertainty about what may happen in the future. Well, the future is here. I have been informed that the property has been sold to another party."
Keith's 17 Nov update: I just got the press release via NASA LaRC's official email distribution list - it was sent out at 9:26 am EST. I am a little baffled as to why a press release first issued only via PR Newswire 4 days ago on 13 November only gets delivered to NASA LaRC's official distribution list 4 days later - and only 3 days before the event itself - announcing that tickets are available "starting Saturday, Nov. 14" i.e. 3 days ago. Oh yes, tickets will not be available after 5 pm today - no mention of that either. And no mention whatsoever is made in the release of the fact that the event will be webcast live. One could easily get the impression that LaRC PAO is not especially interested in this event.
Keith's 17 Nov update: Someone just sent me the final TEDxNASA program and I have posted it here.
NASA's Adviser Talks Security During Annual Salute To Veterans, Tyler Morning Telegraph
"Phillip Bounds, NASA's National Security advisor in Washington, D.C., spoke Monday, calling cyber threats against this country alarming. "There are hidden cyber warriors out there that intend to put our forces in harm's way and (the cyber threat) is more real than what you realize," Bounds told a crowd estimated by officials at "500-plus" at an early Veterans Day observance at the International ALERT Academy."
Keith's note: I just checked NED and no one named Phillip Bounds is listed as being employed by NASA. Yet Bounds clearly works at NASA. In this org chart he is listed as Director, Security Management Division. Isn't it just a little weird to not have such a person listed? How do you find him if you have a security issue? Isn't that what NED is supposed to do - help find NASA people? Or is this part of the whole security thing (i.e. stay hidden)?
Facebook for scientists: Map your expertise, Indiana University
"Indiana University has received more than $1.8 million from the National Institutes of Health to collaborate on a $12.2 million, seven-university project designed to network researchers around the country. While the proposed new networking system will contain authentication mechanisms to protect sensitive data and intellectual property, it is being described as a Facebook for scientists."
"The new system will federate information about faculty and staff from institutional repositories, listings of published articles from academic publishers, and information provided by researchers. Using Vivo, users can search the information and assemble it on a unique page."
Keith's note: Too bad NASA can't do this. Spacebook (internal NASA access only) doesn't really count since only NASA employees inside the firewall can see it - and other field centers have their own competing systems. Taxpayers are denied access. If this sort of information were out in the open, in an easy to use format, not only would NASA and NASA-funded personnel have easier access to what eaveryoen was doing, but so would the taxpaying public. Indeed, this might even lead to unexpected avenues of collaboration between NASA and the outside world.
I think every employee at NASA - from Charlie Bolden to maintenance workers - civil servants and contractors alike - should be required to have and maintain a Facebook Page. Nothing fancy - just who they are and what they do. Performance plan, job description, and recent publications etc. You can set these things up in an hour or less and tweak them when need be. If they want to make it fancier beyond that - great. No need to make it their personal page - they can do that elsewhere. I am talking about a professional page.
In addition to making NASA more open to various search engines, this might also serve to enlighten policy makers and the public as to what vast range of things NASA actually does, how real (and normal) the NASA family actually is, and that they are a part of the economy - and society - just like everyone else. Right now most of what NASA actually does is hidden behind a firewall in a black box with PAO as the only one with a key.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Launches Spacebook, NASA CIO Blog
"NASA has been recognized for 40 years of shared project management success by the Project Management Institute, or PMI, of Newton Square, Pa. "NASA has advanced the discipline of project, program and portfolio management by example," said Ricardo Viana Vargas, chairman of the PMI Board of Directors during their Global Congress-North America annual conference that took place in Orlando, Fla., in October. Vargas also noted that 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of PMI and the Apollo 11 moon landing."
Keith's note: The Coalition for Space Exploration put an advisory out this morning about some public service announcement videos they produced for www.KeepAmericaInSpace.com. The first one is above, the second is below.
These are certainly nicely made videos. My prime criticism, however, is that after all the nostalgic imagery and emotions are brought forth, viewers are not told what specific threats are being made to American space exploration and what specific things they need to do to stop these threats from affecting America's space program. All you get are hints and vague suggestions that things might not continue - with no explanation as to why.
If these videos are meant to be a call to action, then they are missing some critical components. Why do we need to Keep America In Space? What (or who) is threatening to prevent this? Is it President Obama who is doing this? Members of Congress?
These videos impart a sense that things are going OK as they are. If so, then why make the video in the first place? What are you asking viewers to do - and to think? Who do they contact in order to stop these threats? Congress? The White House? NASA? What do they say? What needs to be fixed?
If something needs to be done then you need to give people the tools to fix things and a "to do" list to implement if you want things to be fixed. You can't just drop hints and expect things to happen.
These ads (again, nicely done from a production standpoint) seem to be aimed at people who already support space exploration. In other words, more choir practice. When will the Coalition - and all "space advocates" - finally break this habit? You really do not need to convince the faithful. They are already in the tank.
These videos are described as "public service announcements". You need to reach out into the real world i.e. the "public" and make the discussion resonate with life outside of the space community. You know, bad economy, global warming, etc. Until that happens, these ads just sound like they are saying "you should support space because we are inspired by it - and because we work here".
So what do you think?
Keith's note: NASA civil servant Nick Skytland has been twittering about his official activities at work today at @skytland but this taxpayer (me - @KeithCowing) is specifically blocked from following him on Twitter.
Ironically, Nick champions himself as an advocate ("NASA Catalyst") for an "Open NASA", pushes the use of social networking tools, etc. and was involved in a "Bar Camp" activity (see #SLSDbarcamp ) at JSC Life Sciences that seeks to improve how NASA does business and communicates.
Keith's note: Lori Garver and Charlie Bolden made their first Field Center visit on Wednesday - to Langley. Does anyone from LaRC have feedback they'd like to share? Don't be shy.
"Mike Griffin: Well, with regard to feelings: I don't do feelings. Just think of me as Spock." [audio]
NASA's Charlie Bolden Gets Verklempt, Washington Post
"Over the course of 35 minutes of remarks -- which he admitted should have lasted for about five -- Bolden's voice broke and tears welled up at least five times. "I cry because my dad cried," he explained. "He taught me how to cry. He was my high school football coach. He expressed to me, and everyone else he coached, to have something you're passionate about." NASA became his passion, he said, even though he admitted, "I never dreamed of being an astronaut. I definitely didn't dream of being administrator."
Comment by Lori Garver during yesterday's employee briefing: "Feelings are back at NASA".
Let's Not Bother With Space, Gawker
"On this, the 40th Anniversary of the day Mankind conquered the moon, it is time to issue another clarion call for this generation: fuck Mars, let's focus our attention here, for now. What the hell do we have to show for manned space exploration besides neat pictures and a brief feeling of patriotic goodwill in the middle of Vietnam? Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong are demanding that Obama send men to Mars, ASAP, because... why? Because they had a blast on the moon and wouldn't want future generations to miss out on space-golf?"
Keith's note: Despair.com has a new take on motivational posters - with an Apollo theme.
Whoopi Goldberg Entertains Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories, Real Clear Politics
"Whoopi Goldberg questioned the original moon landing on today's edition of "The View." Goldberg, a co-host, wondered who shot the footage and why the flag was "rippling" if there was no wind."
Keith's note: Watch the video. Is she kidding or just clueless?
"The story, as summarized by Britain's Sunday Express newspaper in late June, was that the tapes had been found in a storage facility in the basement of a building on a university campus in Perth, Australia. Monday's statement appeared to confirm that report, stating that the footage comes from what is "believed to be the best available broadcast-format copies of the lunar excursion, some of which had been locked away for nearly 40 years."
"Mr. Sibrel, who sells his films online, has hounded Apollo astronauts with a Bible, insisting that they swear on camera they had walked on the Moon. He so annoyed Buzz Aldrin in 2002 -- ambushing him with his Bible and calling him "a coward, and a liar, and a thief" -- that Mr. Aldrin punched Mr. Sibrel in the face. Law enforcement officials refused to file charges against Mr. Aldrin, the second man on the Moon. In an interview, Mr. Sibrel said that his efforts to prove that men never walked on the Moon has cost him dearly. "I have suffered only persecution and financial loss," he said. "I've lost visitation with my son. I've been expelled from churches. All because I believe the Moon landings are fraudulent."
Apollo 11 Moon landing: conspiracy theories debunked, The Telegraph
"2) No stars are visible in the pictures taken by the Apollo astronauts from the surface of the Moon. The Apollo landing takes place during lunar mornings, with the Sun shining brightly. Exposure time on the cameras is set very rapid so as not to let in too much light and obscure detail. The stars, whilst being visible to the naked eye on the Moon, are not bright enough to be captured in the photographs."
Keith's note: Tired of opening up the door to your dorm room? Use hydraulics! And control it with your iPhone! This guy clearly wants to work for NASA (note the prominent NASA logo placement). Maybe he can invent those whooshing sliding doors they will use on Star Trek.
"An administrative change is being made to the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for New Frontiers 2009 (NNH09ZDA007O). 90 copies of the proposal are required to be submitted. The proposal due date and all other requirements remain unchanged. Requirement 86 on page 46 now reads: "Requirement 86. The original signed proposal and 90 paper copies, each of which contains an attached, clearly labeled CD-ROM that contains electronic proposal files (see Appendix B), shall be delivered to the following address by the proposal submittal deadline specified in Section 3."
Keith's note: This would be hilarious if it was not so stupid. NASA asks for an electronic copy of a proposal and then tells the submitters to leave a large carbon footprint and ship 90 paper copies of the proposal as well. Why not just use the CD and print them out at HQ? Oh wait, printing uses up trees. Why not just send copies of the CD to reviewers? If no one is going to use the electronic version then why ask for the CD in the first place? Hmm - is this the same process that SMD Earth Science proposals will follow? Al Gore certainly won't be happy ...
Wayne Hale's NASA Blog: Real Life is Not Like Star Trek (with a larger image of Wayne on the bridge)
"For my birthday, my son and fellow Star Trek aficionado gave me some DVDs with the old TV series. Needless to say, I have made a lengthy review of the subject lasting far into the evenings over the last week or so. As a fictional future, Star Trek set a high standard: there was always in interesting planet to explore, every week there was a challenging interpersonal (interspecies?!) relationship to develop, the good guys always won, camaraderie reigned supreme. Even logic and reason, while important, were shown to be inferior to human intuition and compassion. Every episode left you with the feeling that things just would just get better and better. What an exciting, upbeat, pleasantly challenging universe we would encounter in the future! Pop culture was profoundly affected: "Beam me up Scotty!"