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Why The Space Industry Needs A Space College, By Dylan Taylor and Keith Cowing, The Space Review

"According to the Space Foundation's annual report, the global space economy netted $447 billion in 2020. Commercial space activity alone rose to nearly $357 billion, representing 80% of the total space economy. Launch attempts, which totaled 145, were the highest in history.

The formation of a campus--a "space college," if you will--committed to expanding humanity's progress beyond Earth could reimagine who gets a chance at an aerospace career and accelerate timelines for future missions.
These figures highlight a five-year trend of uninterrupted growth, encompassing space tourism, research on Mars, and major steps towards sending a crew to the Moon again. Interest in the cosmos appears unwavering, and experts estimate the industry will generate $1 trillion or more in 2040.

These efforts require highly skilled and enthusiastic workers. From programming the self-driving Perseverance rover to designing more durable spacesuits, immense skill goes into every aspect of off-world exploration whether it is done by humans or robots--or both.

That's why the space industry needs a dedicated university for aerospace studies and related career paths. The formation of a campus--a "space college," if you will--committed to expanding humanity's progress beyond Earth could reimagine who gets a chance at an aerospace career and accelerate timelines for future missions. By nurturing a new generation of astronomers, scientists, engineers, and business leaders in one place, a centralized college, with a global reach to anyone who is interested, would serve an important role in launching a truly spacefaring economy.

Oh yes, when the word "campus" is used it is done so in a 21st century context. In a post-pandemic world, where you are physically located no longer need limit who you can work with. When you take into consideration that the exploration and utilization of space will span distances where interaction is limited by the speed of light, various modes of interaction--many asymmetric--need to be factored into how the space economy operates. As such, this "space college" needs to be wherever you are.

As with any training that involves technology and travel, the hardware you train on and the places where you use it can require you to be physically present. As such, a virtual space college must be paired with a physical one. If you do it right, you can connect nearby and remote locations to function as one. In many cases existing capabilities can be brought together to act as one, with an emergent property being a space college that is both personal and distant. And instead of being wholly limited by "bricks and mortar," such a space college would be open to anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection--even a slow one."

Continue reading at The Space Review

Also - have a look at

Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Competed Space Mission Leadership at NASA Will Require Extensive Efforts Along Entire Career Pathways, Says New Report, National Academy of Sciences

"Inadequate data gathering and reporting are critical barriers to NASA's understanding of the efficacy of its own DEIA efforts to date, and of the proposal leadership pool's demographics, according to the report. These are necessary steps for measuring progress, and for identifying and eliminating barriers in the mission proposal process. The report recommends developing a systematic approach to routinely monitor and track the demographics of those participating in NASA-funded research, both for competed missions and research and analysis grants, with the public release of the resulting data. Further, SMD should provide funding for professional organizations to regularly conduct workforce surveys across the directorate's research fields to inform NASA on the demographics of the workforce and the barriers and opportunities for advancement along career pathways. The report also recommends that NASA empanel a standing NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committee specifically focused on DEIA issues. That committee should have a broad charter and world-class membership to advise top NASA leadership, and its chair should serve on the NAC."

Keith's note: This report focuses on the NASA Science Mission Directorate but is perfectly applicable to NASA as a whole. NASA gets reports like this on a regular basis. They pay lip service, say thank you, and then ignore whatever the report says. NASA is chronically lacking with regard to the basic data that you'd need to understand what NASA's audiences are, what services they need, who within those audiences actually pays attention to NASA education and outreach, and what the results of these interactions actually accomplish (and where they fail to do so).

NASA's education and outreach efforts are disjointed and do not talk to one another. They are duplicative, and are often tailored around the pet notions of the NASA individuals managing the programs. And no one at NASA in a position to plan strategy (there is no strategy)for education and outreach at NASA is actually professionally qualified to create and implement a strategy. People in jobs where these roles are located often moved there from unrelated jobs that they were originally hired to do. The NASA Advisory Council has a education and outreach working group that has short meetings and accomplishes nothing of value.

With regard to work force issues and understanding the actual audiences that need to be attended to so as to get the best possible research proposals, NASA is also sadly lacking. With regard ot the results of NASA research - aside from pretty pictures, and staged media events - NASA fools itself with large numbers of Twitter followers and news stories. Does NASA actually ask actual citizens what they think - and what they know - and what they want from NASA? No. NASA loves to transmit but they have a chronic problem when it comes to actually listening.

Did I miss anything?

Keith's update: AH, but then there's this - from the only AA at NASA who actually "gets it".

NASA Releases Equity Action Plan to Make Space More Accessible to All

"In support of the Biden-Harris Administration's efforts to advance racial equity in the federal government, NASA has released its first-ever Equity Action Plan. The plan establishes key focus areas that will allow the agency to track progress toward improved diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility both internally and externally to NASA. "At NASA, all of our missions depend on our steadfast commitment to equal opportunity," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "The Equity Action plan deepens our commitment to further identify and remove the barriers that limit opportunity in underserved and underrepresented communities. This framework anchors fairness as a core component in every NASA mission to make the work we do in space and beyond more accessible to all."

Space Workforce 2030

"As we chart a course into this promising future, the foundation we establish now will have a profound effect on the generations that follow. We feel strongly that as humanity continues to extend our reach further into space, that presence must encompass the full range of people on earth and reflect the values to which we aspire. We, as members of the space community, are committed to modeling this future state even as we endeavor to create it."

Keith's note: The 2021 NASA Space Apps Challenge winners were announced today. I have posted an annotated list below. This is one of the finest worldwide outreach efforts that NASA has ever done over the half century of its existence. It is a superb example of the use of NASA's global branding in a synergistic, soft power fashion. Alas, while Thomas Zurbuchen at SMD has openly embraced this effort, over the past decade the rest of NASA has given only lukewarm mention - if any. I will have a detailed look at this project online on Monday.

NASA's 10th Space Apps Challenge Increases Global Participation, earlier post

NASA International Space Apps Challenge Winners

Best Use of Science - Ani's Cuff (Seeing the unseeable - Viewing Bugs from Space) Taipei, Taiwan - "Our lives hinge on the wellbeing of insects; at the same time, insect biodiversity is disproportionately affected by human actions. Your challenge is to develop innovative ways to advance our ability to detect insect life, track and predict change over time, and communicate that information to scientists and society to combat the loss of insect biodiversity."

Best Use of Data - Cambridge Asteroids - Cambridge, UK - "From Earth, the Trojan asteroids appear to be single points of light; their light curves - the way their observed brightness varies with time - are one of the few clues available to scientists working to determine the shapes of these distant bodies. Your challenge is to design a tool that allows users to explore how the shape of an asteroid affects the appearance of its light curve."

Best Use of Technology - Change Maker - Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia - "NASA produces a variety of surface solar and meteorological data parameters that are useful to commercial renewable energy and sustainable building ventures, but this information is not easily accessible to the typical homeowner. Your challenge is to develop a mobile application to access the information on NASA's Prediction of Worldwide renewable Energy Resources (POWER) web services portal and provide useful information about sunshine to the general public."

Galactic Impact - 4 SEEDS Chino Hills, CA - "A viable food system for long-duration exploration missions does not yet exist, but it will be necessary to maintain crew health and performance. Your challenge is to design a deployable crop production system capable of supporting the nutritional requirements of a crew of 4-6 on a transit mission to Mars and back to Earth."

Best Mission Concept - Mohakash (Virtual Planetary Exploration v2.0) - Khulna - "Future astronauts will conduct various activities in space and on or near celestial bodies to help us learn about their mission destinations, Earth, and our universe. Your challenge is to create interactive 3D models of equipment (e.g., planetary geology tools) that future space explorers might use for activities like exploring a planetary surface."

Most Inspirational - Bioshi (Space for Change) - Panama - "Marginalized communities are often disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards. Your challenge is to use NASA's Earth observation data to: 1) identify regions where such environmental injustice occurs, and 2) design implementable solutions that enable equitable outcomes."

Best Story Telling - Space Travellers from Guayaquil, Guayas Ecuador - "Long-distance space travel comes with a multitude of health risks, but it is difficult to imagine the combined effects of these risks, especially for those who are not fluent in NASA jargon. Your challenge is to create an educational game for middle schoolers (approx. ages 10-14) that focuses on keeping an avatar alive and healthy during a voyage from Earth to Mars and back, and that identifies the most difficult challenges and the biggest risks involved in human spaceflight."

Award for Global Connection - EAGLE AI (Leveraging AI/ML for plastic marine debris) (Global) - "AI tracking system to track and follow ocean plastic with up to 100% accuracy "Marine debris is one of the most pervasive threats to the health of coastal areas, oceans, and waterways. Your challenge is to leverage Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning to monitor, detect, and quantify plastic pollution and increase our understanding about using these techniques for this purpose."

Arts and Technology - Jimmy In The Box (Webb Origami Design Challenge) Boston MA - "The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA's next premier space science observatory and will fulfill the agency's vision to "discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Your challenge is to create origami artwork that looks like the James Webb Space Telescope and showcases Webb as a technological and design marvel using an "arts-meets-science" approach."

Global Award Winner - Landslide Detection Squad - Perth, Australia - "Landslides often interfere with the economic development of rural communities. Your challenge is to develop a tool that uses data from NASA satellites and ground-based sources to determine the risk of landslides in rural communities and share the results with local communities and governments."

Kamala Harris slammed for using child actors in bizarre space video, NY Post

"All five of them are actors," Carlo Bernardino, whose 13-year-old son Trevor was one of the youngsters taking part, told the Washington Examiner. "He's a child actor -- he's been trying to do this type of thing for a while. And so he has a manager and an agent in LA and they send him castings."

Children in Kamala Harris's NASA video were paid actors, Yahoo

"The Vice President's office did not select the kids who participated in the YouTube Originals special," a White House official told the Washington Examiner. A YouTube spokesperson told the Hill that "compensation was handled the same way as it is for all of our other YouTube Originals shows."

VP Harris Kicks Off World Space Week And NASA Ignores Her (Update), earlier post

Keith's 7 October update: It took TWO DAYS for NASA PAO and the NASA STEM Engagement Office to make mention of the event with VP Harris, one powered by global video giant YouTube. It is rather baffling that NASA would take so long to acknowledge an event which, in the end, turns a national spotlight on NASA and space exploration - during World Space Week (which is almost over now) If PAO AA Marc Etkind and STEM Office AA Mike Kincaid have a consistent policy for highlighting education and public outreach at NASA it is certainly not in evidence here. As for the White House liaison at NASA - no one seems to be listening to them. Just sayin'

Keith's 6 October update: A day later and there is still zero mention by NASA regarding this high profile space-related event with VP Harris. Supposedly there will be something online at NASA tomorrow - except nothing is mentioned by NASA. Oh yes, a NASA astronaut in space is involved. But why mention that. Meanwhile the national news media noticed - even if NASA is AWOL.

- Kamala Harris Will Host YouTube Special About Space Exploration: 'We're Going to Learn So Much', People
- 'Get Curious With Vice President Harris' Space-Themed Kids Special Set For Launch, Deadline/Yahoo
- YouTube announces new kids' special starring Harris, The Hill

Keith's 5 October note: This is clearly a space education effort - and it comes from the Vice President herself, you know, the person in the White House to whom the National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group answers. You'd think that the political appointees at NASA Headquarters on the 9th floor would be going out of their way to promote this. Guess again. There is no mention of this event at the NASA STEM Engagement Office website - or at No press release or media advisory from NASA PAO either. No mention at @NASA or @NASASTEM. No mention at @VP or @WHOSTP either. This feature is supposed to launch "October 7 at 6am PT / 9am ET, on the NASA YouTube Channel" but there is no mention on the NASA TV schedule. Will it air on NASA TV or just on a website?

Vice President Kamala Harris Kicks Off World Space Week With New YouTube Original Special "Get Curious With Vice President Harris", YouTube

"Kicking off World Space Week, YouTube Originals today announced "Get Curious with Vice President Harris," a new special encouraging children to "get curious" about space. This once-in-a-lifetime event follows a group of lucky kids as they meet Vice President Kamala Harris, go on a scavenger hunt with clues delivered by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough from the International Space Station, and get unprecedented exclusive access to the United States Naval Observatory."

Keith's note: Sources report that the NASA Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) has been moving all of its contracted work to MORI Associates Inc. under a contract awarded on a sole source basis via JSC under a new umbrella contract called Communications, Outreach, Multimedia, and Information Technology (COMIT). OSTEM AA Mike Kincaid has had previous experience working with MORI when he was at JSC.

This sole source contract is being awarded to MORI for all OSTEM work even though MORI was not the existing incumbent for all of this work at NASA OSTEM and NASA HQ. Meanwhile sources report that Mike Kincaid's brother Scott Kincaid, who works for Salesforce, a cloud-based Internet provider, has sat in on official NASA OSTEM meetings with NASA staff. The current plan, according to sources, is for NASA OSTEM to move its online platform work to ... Salesforce.

I have received no feedback or commentary on my reporting from Mike Kincaid or NASA PAO - so one has to assume that they do not contest any of it. Sad. NASA is the Earth's pre-eminent space agency with a vast reach oozing with softpower and inspiration - one that is truly global. As such, with an extra pot of money in the FY2022 budget request, you'd think that NASA would want to obtain the best contractor support possible to enable its education and outreach efforts. Guess again. Instead, they go for easy, unimaginative procurement solutions and grab the low-hanging fruit instead. I am rather sure this is not what Joe Biden had in mind when he coined the whole "Build Back Better" thing. Quite the contrary.

NASA Releases Interactive Graphic Novel "First Woman"

"We crafted this graphic novel and digital ecosystem to share NASA's work in a different and exciting way," said Derek Wang, director of communications for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "We set out to make the content both engaging and accessible. From space fans of all ages to hardworking educators looking for new ways to get students excited about STEM, we hope that there is something for everyone to enjoy."

Keith's 25 September note: This graphic novel is nicely done. NASA put a press release out about it on a Saturday - usually a dead day for news media - but it was National Comic Book Day - so it got some extra visibility. @NASA with its 40 million-plus Twitter followers even got in on the promotion. features it prominently. This is a STEM education-focused product from the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA HQ - not the NASA STEM Engagement Office. As such (predictably) the NASA STEM Engagement Office website makes no mention of it.

Keith's 27 September note: It took them 2 days but they updated the NASA STEM website. Let's see if they conduct any meaningful promotion for this graphic novel - or just say something - once.

Name of Information Collection: Generic Clearance for the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Performance Measurement and Evaluation (Testing), Federal Register

"Methodological testing will include focus group discussions, pilot surveys to test new individual question items as well as the complete form and instrument. In addition, test-retest and similar protocols will be used to determine reliability characteristics of the forms and instruments. Methodological testing will assure that forms and instruments accurately and consistently collect and measure what they are intended to measure and that data collection items are interpreted precisely and consistently, all towards the goal of accurate Agency reporting while improving the execution of NASA STEM Engagement activities.

Affected Public: Individuals and Households.
Estimated Annual Number of Activities: 8.
Estimated Number of Respondents per Activity: 2,800.
Annual Responses: 1.
Estimated Time per Response: 15 minutes.
Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 5,600.
Estimated Total Annual Cost: $54,082."

Keith's note: This effort will involve 5,600 hours of work at a total annual cost of $54,082. Let's do some simple math. You get a pay rate of $9.68 an hour. Minimum wage is set at $7.25 but states are raising it. DC raised its rate to $15.25. The states around NASA HQ - Virgina - raised it to $9.50 and Maryland - raised to $11.75. So people are being paid at or probably below minimum wage to do all of this fancy "methodical testing", data collection and interpretation. If this is about civil servant labor then this rate/hour total simply makes no sense. That said it strikes me as odd that you'd entrust something as complex as this to people earning less than the minimum wage. Or is this just one of those boilerplate Federal Register notices that really do not actually mean anything?

Keith's note: NASA's Space Apps Challenge is an amazing project that is now entering its 10th year. It has a truly global reach and allows NASA to exert some potent and long-lasting soft power. Alas, other than some promotion by SMD, the NASA STEM Engagement Office and NASA Public Affairs ignore this educational activity. This tweet is one example where NASA PAO could have super-turbocharged the reach of this program - and its potential for engagement - simply by retweeting. But no. They won't lift a finger to do that.

Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, selects 19 space-based charities to each receive a $1 million grant

"Today, Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, announced 19 non-profit charitable organizations will each be offered a $1 million grant to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space. The funds are made possible by the recent auction for the first paid seat on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket."

Smithsonian To Receive Historic $200 Million Donation From Jeff Bezos

"The Smithsonian will receive a $200 million donation from Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chair of Amazon, and founder of aerospace and space flight company Blue Origin. The donation is the largest gift to the Smithsonian since the Institution's founding gift from James Smithson in 1846. A $70 million portion of the donation will support the renovation of the National Air and Space Museum and $130 million will launch a new education center at the museum. The education center will be housed in a new facility to be constructed on the east side of the museum's plaza at its flagship location on the National Mall. It will feature programs and activities that inspire students to pursue innovation and explore careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) fields, and it will help teachers better utilize the Smithsonian's collections."

Keith's note: NASA's FY 2002 budget request includes a $27 million increase in STEM education budget. Blue Origin just donated $19 million to 19 non-profit groups for the express purpose of STEM education - after you consider other things that the agency is on the hook for, the gift is of approximately equal value. An hour later Blue Origin made another, immense donation to the Smithsonian - $130 million of which goes to the Air & Space Museum to support STEM education. You'd think that NASA's STEM Engagement Office would wake up and take notice or at least tweet something nice and say thank you. NASA is the largest donor of exhibits to the Smithsonian and these various organizations work to support space exploration. NASA has agreements with Blue Origin and the Smithsonian, so their social media and PR policies permit them to say "thank you". But the STEM Engagement Office and NASA Public Affairs folks simply don't really care to make note.

Keith's update: I heard from Mike Kincaid, the NASA AA for the Office of STEM Engagement. He is "excited" about this donation but is not going to say anything publicly. Neither is NASA PAO. But Kincaid did offer to read through some Powerpoint slides with me. Seriously. Powerpoint.

Keith's note: On Wednesday I listened to Administrator Bill Nelson testify before a Congressional Committee. During the course of the hearing every single member chimed in about the importance of NASA to their state (and vice versa) and twisted Nelson's arm for a site visit. As the hearing wore on it was obvious that this was all transactional - they people who give things to NASA want things from NASA. That's just fine if your representative from your space state is on the committee. But what happens when a community, or a sector of the economy, or an underserved community has no one to champion their cause? No arm twisting. And if NASA is focused on keeping lawmakers happy, they are not going to spend a lot of time on a bunch of people who do not matter in the whole transactional legislative dance.

We've all heard the phrase "flyover country". Some accuse east and west coast elites of using the term derisively to refer to the 3 hours of boring terrain they have put up with as they fly over it to get to their destination. Others use it as a self-identifier or even a term of endearment to suggest that they are ignored by political leaders of both parties who have a different set of concerns than those that they have to deal with every day.

Much of what is "flyover country" is rural agricultural in nature. No rocket ships are built there. NASA never visits. But people in flyover country hear about rich people wanting to spend millions to fly in space while they and their neighbors back on Earth are suffering through post-pandemic economic troubles. Newsflash: most people out in the real world i.e. not in the space bubble have not spent a whole lot of time studying the differences between "commercial" vs "civilian" or "government" space - so all of this talk of rich people in space is synonymous with "NASA". And what has NASA done for them lately? Oh and now they want to spend billions to go back to the Moon. Didn't we already do that?

One would think that someone at NASA is thinking about how to work through this problem and make the agency more relevant to the real world who pays the taxes that buy all of the rocket fuel. Of course NASA and the space economy is immensely relevant. But NASA has done such a poor job that you'd never know this. So why not pick something that NASA does that easily resonates with everyone - something that they personally experience - and learn from - and enjoy - and derive benefits from? I have a thought: drones. To be specific: Drones on Mars.

NASA Launches Mission Equity, Seeks Public Input to Broaden Access

"NASA is launching Mission Equity, a comprehensive effort to assess expansion and modification of agency programs, procurements, grants, and policies, and examine what potential barriers and challenges exist for communities that are historically underrepresented and underserved. "NASA is a 21st century agency with 22nd century goals. To be successful, it's critical that NASA takes a comprehensive approach to address the challenges to equity we see today," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "The agency's new Mission Equity is a bold and necessary challenge for NASA to ensure our programs are accessible to all Americans and, especially, those living in historically underserved communities across the country. Because when NASA opens doors to talent previously left untapped, the universe is the limit."

Request for Information on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in NASA Programs, Contracts and Grants Process, NASA

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is issuing this Request for Information (RFI) to receive input from the public on NASA's mission directorates' programs, procurements, grants, regulations and policies. NASA will use this information to evaluate, implement, modify, expand, and streamline its programs, procurements, grants, regulations and policies to remove systemic inequitable barriers and challenges facing underserved communities. NASA will also use advanced research, data collection and technologies to assist in inter and intra-agency execution of this Administration's policy to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."

Keith's note: Make sure you read this carefully. NASA Wants your input on something that they use to coordinate public outreach. They call it NSPIREHub and apparently it is a very cool thing. At least they think so. Update: check below. NASA responded - exactly as I expected them to ...

Name of Information Collection: NASA Serves the Public To Inspire Reach-Out and Engage (NSPIREHub), NASA via Federal Register

"The NASA Serves the Public to Inspire Reach-Out and Engage (NSPIREHub) is a one-stop, web-based volunteer management system that streamlines communications, recruitment and marketing and enhances reporting and management of official outreach events. The NSPIREHub engages, informs and inspires current docents, employees (civil servants and contractors), interns and qualified members of the general public to share NASA's advancements, challenges and contributions through participation in official outreach (i.e., launch support, special events support activities, etc.).

The NSPIREHub utilizes a multiple tiered, role-based NAMS provisioning to empower system administrators to request and collect specific user information for the purpose of coordinating the carrying out of NASA's official outreach activities. These specific purposes include but are not limited To: Facilitating pre-event briefings, onsite and virtual support trainings, shadowing opportunities and assignment scheduling.

The information collected and protected within the NSPIREHub helps to ensure all outreach support team members, prior to serving, are equipped with the tools, skills and confidence necessary to share their stories in alignment with NASA's communication priorities. It also makes possible the efficient reporting of metric data relevant to the impact of official outreach on fulfillment of NASA's responsibilities as related to the Space Act, Section 203."

I Googled "NSPIREHub" and got nothing. I used the search engine got nothing. I even tried NTRS. Nothing. I tried searching for "NASA Serves the Public to Inspire Reach-Out and Engage". Nothing - except this Federal Register notice, that is. This Federal Register posting says that NSPIREHub "is a one-stop, web-based volunteer management system that ..." "Is" - that's the operative word. This notice says that this NSPIREHub thing exists and that it does something. But I cannot find any mention of it - anywhere. Is this some sort of secret internal NASA thing? If so then why does this data collection notice seek public input if the public cannot even see the thing to begin with? How can they be expected to provide any input on something that they cannot see? Who owns this NSPIREHub thing? PAO? NASA STEM Engagement? Is this a NASA HQ effort or does some field center run this in stealth mode somewhere?

I have to hand it to NASA though. They have apparently created a totally stealthy public outreach system. Only NASA would think to do invisible outreach, I guess.

Keith's update: I sent a request to the person listed on the Federal Register notice and NASA HQ PAO. It was forwarded to someone at KSC who replied:

"I just want to make sure what type of information you are looking for so I send you the right stuff. The actual website that holds the working information is not available to the public for use. It is only intended for use by NASA/Contractor's with access behind the firewall. Can you please let me know what type of information you are interested in?"

So I replied:

"The reason I ask is that the Federal Register notice clearly asks for public input: "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections." How can the general public provide input for a site that it cannot see? I am a member of the general public so can I see what I need to see in order to provide public feedback? Otherwise why was this notice seeking general public input issued?"

BUT - and this is important - the person at KSC who is responsible is going to pull some things together for me. I am genuinely interested in how NASA does education and outreach - which is what drew my attention to this Federal Register posting in the first place. So, let's see what NASA provides me.

Keith's note: After four years of attempts to kill NASA's Education Office a new Administration wants to increase NASA's education funding. A person with a PhD in Education lives in the White House. Overall, the Biden/Harris Administration talks about enhancing education in all quarters of the government. Instead of having a political donor running the Department of Education into the ground, an actual teacher and professional educational manager is now the Secretary of Education. If you are interested in the future of our nation's education system, now would be a good time for you to start being enthusiastic - again.

You'd think that NASA would be overjoyed. Alas, even in the best of times, NASA's education efforts have been under funded, filled with congressional pork, and at odds with NASA Public Affairs and the outreach efforts run by various NASA directorates, missions, and field centers. And they lack even the most basic of metrics to allow its efforts to be evaluated for effectiveness. Rarely has NASA's education office been run by an actual professional educator with prior education management experience.

As Bill Nelson assumed the position of NASA Administrator, he has been saying all the right things about education, inspiring the next generation, the value of NASA as a global ambassador, etc. Jim Bridenstine said the same things. So did Charlie Bolden and Sean O'Keefe. Unlike his predecessors, NASA has a $147 million request - a 15.7% increase over FY 2021 appropriations in its education budget in the President's FY 2022 budget request. The budget request shows an out year runout reaching $160 million in FY 2026. If you look at the STEM summary in the NASA budget justification (page 725) - the 3 pages of 'lets get rid of education' verbiage from the Trump era is replaced with 6 pages of 'what can we do to expand education' at NASA.

What The Biden/Harris White House Says About NASA Education

As for NASA's plans according to this budget justification, the document states:

"NASA will execute a new integrated action plan toward broadening student participation in STEM Engagement programs and activities. This plan has outlined discrete initiatives and identified best practices already underway under four overarching goals:
• Enhance communications and stakeholder engagement, and build networks and relationships dedicated to broadening student participation;
• Strengthen practices and systems toward broadening student participation;
• Build a solid foundation for a focus on metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation; and
• Drive a collective focus across NASA's STEM Engagement community on broadening student participation and foster a commitment to achieving more diversity, equity, and inclusion in student opportunities and programs."

Keep these things in mind as you go through my commentary.

Two weeks ago I sent an email to NASA Public Affairs - and the Associate Administrators for Communications and STEM Engagement - about the excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response a week later. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current lazy, disinterested attitude within NASA Headquarters with regard to education:

NASAWatch: "How does this event link to the Biden/Harris Administration's education strategic plans"?
NASA PAO: "Please reach out to the White House."

Oddly the budget justification issued by the White House - presumably written with the collaboration of NASA - states that such a plan exists. So why did NASA Public Affairs tell me to consult with the White House? Did they not know that they had a plan what was in synch with the White House? As you will see below, NASA's education plans are ad hoc, in serious need of updating, are out of synch with other agency activities, and almost totally devoid of "metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation" as stated by the White House.

Assuming that the FY 2022 budget request for NASA education survives, what will Bill Nelson do with the extra $27 million? Will he just pour it into the status quo? If so then the added funds will make little real difference due to systemic problems within the NASA STEM Engagement Office. Or, will Nelson take the lead offered him by the White House and set aside some serious money to revamp i.e. to "Build Back Better" this aging and inefficient education program so as to make it 21st century compliant?

Let's take a closer look at NASA's Education efforts. I have expanded some of the things I have been writing about recently.

Keith's note: Last week I sent an email to NASA PAO - and the AAs for Communications and STEM Education - about last week's excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response to my questions today. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current attitude within NASA Headquarters with regard to education.

NASAWatch: "How does this event link to the Biden/Harris Administration's education strategic plans"?
NASA PAO: "Please reach out to the White House."

In his prepared statement to the House Appropriations Committee last week Bill Nelson said "strengthening of a diverse Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce that inspires future generations."

In his State of the Union Address President Biden said "To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That's why I've introduced the American Families Plan tonight, which addresses four of the biggest challenges facing American families and, in turn, America. First is access to a good education. When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world. It's, I believe, the overwhelming reason that propelled us to where we got in the 21st -- in the 20th century."

So ... despite the strong, clear, relentless push for education from the Biden/Harris Administration - with a education PhD on call 24/7/365 no less - and continuous statements by the NASA Administrator and other officials about the importance of education, NASA's answer is "Please reach out to the White House"? Seriously? Is no one at NASA paying attention to what the White House has been saying such that they can't even answer such a simple, basic question?

NASA Lands in Oakland! New Partnership with Chabot Space & Science Center Will Create NASA Learning Opportunities in the East Bay, NASA Ames

"A new partnership between NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley and Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, is now underway. Anchoring the partnership, a new visitor center for Ames will provide an immersive, dynamic STEAM environment called "The NASA Experience," opening at Chabot in November 2021. Under the terms of a five-year Space Act Agreement, the organizations are beginning a long-term collaboration to create accessible STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art, and math, community engagement and education opportunities in Oakland and beyond."

Keith's note: A new STEM education activity at NASA Ames has been announced at - and by - NASA Ames. Typically, there is no mention of this NASA STEM education news by @NASASTEM Twitter account. There is no link within the NASA Ames press release of the NASA STEM Engagement Office at NASA HQ - which, in turn, makes no mention of this new NASA STEM educational partnership at NASA Ames.

No one within the NASA education community seems to want to cooperate with any other part of NASA and the NASA STEM Office at NASA HQ - the place where you'd expect some sort of central focus on all that NASA does in terms of education, seems to be out of the loop. And NASA Public Affairs does not seem to care either.

This is not #BuildBackBetter folks.

Keith's note: C'mon Mike Kincaid. Both of these items were sent out today via NASA email lists. You just need to get someone in your office to subscribe. Then, when something like this is sent out that is education-related you tweet a link via @NASASTEM and 321,886 followers will be informed. Or you can follow more NASA and space education Twitter and social media accounts and simply retweet their links. How much simpler could this be?

Keith's note: By now you must be bored with my daily critique of how NASA organizes and presents itself to the public, policy makers, news media, and the rest of the world - especially when it comes to education. (see Fixing Education And Outreach At NASA. Part 1: STEM Engagement Office) To virtually everyone, everywhere, online resources are how people learn what NASA does - and where they go to find out what it can do for them. As such you'd expect that the agency would spend the resources needed to put forth the best online face. Guess again. (see NASA's Web Presence is An Amazing Mess).

As you may know the Trump Administration tried to defund the NASA Education Office. But Congress thwarted that. But in a compromise to sooth some political issues they changed the name to the "NASA STEM Engagement Office". While the name is not exactly obvious, whatever you call NASA's main education organization should be the focal point for the agency's education efforts - STEM and otherwise.

That said, the NASA STEM Engagement Office only links to some of the agency's ongoing educational activities and many of the field centers, directorates, missions, and other programs with overt educational interests and content, do not bother to link back to the NASA STEM Engagement Office. And if they do link back they do so indirectly and rely on a web visitor to guess where the link is. And in the case of NASA JPL, well, they simply ignore NASA HQ. But that is another story.

Now there is talk of a massive infrastructure bill to be prosed by the White House which seeks to revitalize things all throughout the government and the economy. Maybe NASA can grab some of that funding and focus it on its education and outreach problems - and not on yet another shiny office building for SES and GS-15 employees.

Here's my latest flyby analysis of how badly NASA coordinates its education activities online. It is hard to see more than a superficial semblance of an agency-wide coherent approach to presenting and integrating education and outreach. But you already knew that, right?

Keith's note: According to James Miller at NASA who emailed "NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis" to lots of the usual suspects within the DC space wonk choir, the National Space Council (NSpC) and its Users Advisory Group (UAG) are still alive and active (surprise) with all of their Trump-nominated members:

"... our UAG executive Committee (ExCom) has continued to meet on a regular basis and several Subcommittees, most notably the Education and Outreach Subcommittee, have also continued meeting or are planning to do so. Your participation in those sessions will, of course, be key to their continuing success. In summary, as both the UAG and the NSpC we advise are still active organizations, it seems appropriate that we continue to work to identify areas where we can contribute, even as we await any potential organizational changes."

If you go to pages 8-10 on the UAG's Transition Summary which is appended to this memo you will see that among the organizations the UAG's Education and Outreach subcommittee met with in January 2021 - as the Trump Administration was leaving and the Biden Administration was arriving - were:

EdChoice which is an Indiana-based nonprofit devoted to the privatization of schools through the promotion of an educational voucher system. The right-wing 501(c)(3) nonprofit is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a right wing/libertarian think tank. and The Reagan Institute which says "Here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, our education programs are dedicated to cultivating the next generation of citizen-leaders. Each year we work with thousands of teachers, and tens of thousands of students from across the country to help foster engaged and informed citizens. We invite you to explore these pages for information on programs, scholarships, and opportunities for students and educators."

Keith's note: When you think of NASA you think of science. That is because NASA wants you to think that. And since there is a lot of science at NASA, this is rather easy to do. Indeed, many times the people or organizations tasked with getting the science out via education and outreach at NASA are not very good at doing so. But the science is so compelling that it gets out despite attempts to trip it up. And when excellence in communication is coupled with the compelling science the world often stops what it is doing to take a look.

Let's pretend for a moment that we are not NASA employees, space fans, or people familiar with how NASA is organized. Let's just think like regular people who want to understand the science that NASA is always talking about. Maybe you are a student. Perhaps a parent. Or maybe just someone who is curious.

As a regular person you'd think that NASA would position its social and online media assets - the most extensive of any government agency on Earth - to best guide you to all the agency's science. Google "NASA Science" and you see a page of links that all refer to the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) - the top one being - the SMD home page. This is good. And it is also not so good. At NASA "Science" and "science" are not the same thing.

Keith's note: Take a look at the NASA Strategy For STEM Engagement 2020-2023 which has been "Approved by the NASA STEM Engagement Council". For starters what exactly is the "NASA STEM Engagement Council"? It is overtly shown as having approved this document but the document never defines its role or function nor who is on the council, what their backgrounds are, and who they represent. If you search for it using the NASA search engine you get nonsense results.

But there is a NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee - which has more words in its name. I just happened to know this but non-NASA people might not. But NASA has lots of names for the same thing, so ... The council lists 7 members and where they work. There is only one female on the council and no bios of the members are available. The last meeting was 6 months ago.

This document is clearly written for a small audience inside of NASA i.e. the people who oversee what the STEM Engagement office does. It is mostly charts and short bits of text which highlight the important points - but never discusses them.

Also, when you get a strategic plan like this there should be some rationale behind the goals and objectives. Clearly NASA needs to focus on education. But the goals and objectives do not mention that they were formulated in response to ongoing needs or problems or deficiencies i.e. that there are places and populations in America who are underserved when it comes to NASA education and outreach activities. If you cannot describe the need then how do you justify these various things that NASA does?

Keith's note: Take a look at the NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee. The page has lots of meeting agendas but no one seems to have taken any notes at the meetings in 2020.

The October 2019 meeting minutes has a few strange entries. This one stands out:

"Mr. Dan Dumbacher noted that the five Sphere 1 activities did not include Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate content. Ms. Brown noted no aeronautics activities were brought forward for Sphere 1. While Office of STEM Engagement strives to be equitable across Mission Directorates each year, no aeronautics activities with a high level of magnitude were brought forward. Not every Mission Directorate will be highlighted each year but will be across years."

So let me get this right: the NASA STEM organization is only going to cover part of NASA's science and technology part of the time? In this case Aeronautics is not being highlighted? And yet in a few days there will be a helicopter flying on Mars - and in so doing - this helicopter will demonstrate every possible aspect of aeronautics as people learn how you can actually fly in an atmosphere 1/100th the density of Earth's at sea level.

If you go to the NASA STEM Engagement main page - there is no mention of Ingenuity or or Mars Perseverance. You would think that a multi-billion dollar mission on Mars - one that utilizes virtually every aspect of NASA science and Technology - would be front and center on the page of the part of NASA dedicated to teaching and learning. Talk about an opportunity dripping with teaching opportunities. Guess again. This organization only serves some of the students some of the time - and it tells you that it is doing so.

Just to be fair the NASA Science Mission Directorate is not exactly promoting educational opportunities associated with this mission either but I suspect they will dial that up. But the NASA Aeronautics folks are much more proactive with a link to a page with overt STEM activities - something that the NASA STEM Engagement Office is ignoring.

Keith's note: In a nutshell NASA's education and outreach activities are overlooked, underemphasized, and underfunded; scattered and unfocused; and are simultaneously duplicative and non-complimentary. This is nothing new. It has been this way for decades.

The NASA STEM Engagement Office used to be called the NASA Education Office but NASA changed it to satisfy the demands of the Trump Administration who tried to defund it year after year - but Congress always put the money back. The Trump folks are gone but the name remains. "STEM" is almost always used with the word "education". To say "STEM Engagement" is like referring to ice cream as a "frozen dairy product with flavoring" when everyone else just says "ice cream" but we all know that NASAese is a hard habit to break.

No one managing the NASA STEM Engagement Office is a formally trained education professional - starting with the Associate Administrator. This is no big deal if the office functions in backwater mode - where no one really cares what they do. But we are talking about the preeminent space agency on our planet. This Administration seems to be inclined to bring science and knowledge back into the way we run our society. Think of how often the equivalent if college education gets wasted every time a NASA contract has a daily cost hiccup. You would think that the agency is thinking of a total overhaul of its education and outreach - with a budget that can make that happen.

That said, if President Biden can put an actual teacher in charge of the Department of EDUCATION then NASA can change the name to reflect what the office does. With a person holding PhD in EDUCATION who is also First Lady one would think that this topic gets discussed at the dinner table in the White House. You'd think that NASA would sense an inherent green light to go a head and fix this situation and staff the organization with education professionals and give it a budget commensurate with its important role.

That said, NASA does do a lot of good education stuff. The hard part is figuring out what they do and why they do it - and how they tell if they are doing the right thing.

Keith's 29 October note: Why does the NASA HQ STEM Engagement Office, NASA Wallops, and NASA Langley ignore this overtly space-themed activity that involves NASA employees - in Virginia? This 4-H activity is precisely the sort of new audience that NASA needs to be cultivating since they represent the "Artemis Generation" that NASA keeps talking about inspiring. I just asked Mike Kincaid, the AA at the STEM Engagement Office and HQ PAO NASA about this, FWIW.

Keith's 2 November Update: I never heard back from NASA HQ STEM Engagement Office or NASA PAO. A statewide space-related STEM activity is underway within driving distance of HQ. This activity utilizes NASA personnel and is aimed at the Artemis Generation. Yet NASA HQ and the NASA centers located in that state can't be bothered to make note of it.

HeroX Helps NASA Advance Lunar Exploration with a Miniaturized Payload Prototype Challenge, HeroX

"HeroX, the world's leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition "Honey I Built the NASA Payload, The Sequel" on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The challenge seeks to develop miniature payload prototypes that can be sent to the Moon to help fill gaps in lunar knowledge. Lunar resources are potentially abounding, and these prototypes can also help discover some of these key resources scientists think might be on the Moon."

Keith's note: This stuff is cool. NASA should do more of it. But, coolness, aside, NASA is not interested in making any mention if it as far as I can tell. If you go to the NASA Tournament Lab website no mention of this new challenge is made. Indeed the page was last updated on 9 July 2020. This NASA Tournament Lab is apparently run by the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) at JSC in collaboration with Harvard University - they do not mention this challenge either. Nor does SMD, HEOMD, STMD, or the Artemis web page. And the official Twitter account @nasa_ntl and the main NASA Twitter account for these sort of things at @NASASolve have not made any mention either.

Why hold these cool events if you don't bother to tell people about them, NASA?

- NASA Space Apps Challenge: An Underutilized Tool For Global Reach, earlier post
- How NASA Uses DIME/Soft Power To Extend A Global Reach (Update), earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, earlier post

NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - Oct. 5, 2020

"Shout Out: NASA's International Space Apps Challenge concluded yesterday, and it was a huge success! This 9th annual hackathon invited designers, coders and programmers to use NASA, and partner space agency, data to tackle real-world problems. The Science Mission Directorate led this fantastic effort, which drew more than 26,000 participants from around the world. Thank you to everyone on the team who helped make this a great event."

Keith's note: NASA needs to spend a little more time promoting International SpaceApps Challenge than it has done in the past. Given that humans now live in orbit permanently - and have done so for 20 years - you'd think that NASA would be looking for ways to capitalize upon its global brand reach and the inherent soft power opportunity that goes with being a bright light in an otherwise gloomy time here on Planet Earth. Everyone is isolated - globally. This is a chance to connect and utilizing that NASA global brand.

Keith's update: NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - Sept. 8, 2020

"Shout Out: NASA's International Space Apps Challenge 2020, dubbed the largest global hackathon in the world, will be kicking off its 9th year on Oct. 2-4. The event brings innovators of all ages and backgrounds together to solve some of the world's biggest challenges. NASA employees can share the opportunity with friends and family, or involve kids learning at home in the all-virtual event this year. Teams can choose from space- and Earth-related challenges to challenges focused on history and youth. There's something for everyone!"

Keith's note: When most people hear the phrase "space science" it is logical to expect that they think of "science" in "space". Maybe its astronomy or planets. Maybe its studying how humans live in space. Perhaps its analyzing samples from another world or looking for life in the universe. It might even include looking down at Earth from space. But "space science" simply refers to "science" - and not any one discipline or sub-discipline.

But at NASA "space science" it has been used for decades to refer to missions that do astronomy, astrophysics, heliophysics and to some extent planetary and Earth science. ISS would never be mentioned unless it is for some astronomy or astrophysics payload on board. And there'd be no mention of any "science" done in "space" by NASA's Human Exploration, Technology or Aeronautics Directorates - even if the science was done in space. Since NASA people use a subset of the English language that reflects the NASA phone book and budget plans - and power point lingo - and not how the rest of the world sees things - its websites tend to reflect these distinctions peculiar to NASA. Advisory bodies, OMB, and Congress fall into the same trap. "Space Science" at NASA is not what the phrase probably means to English speakers who hear the two words used together.

Google's top link from a search for "space science" is to a Wikipedia page "outline of space" which defines it this way: "Space science encompasses all of the scientific disciplines that involve space exploration and study natural phenomena and physical bodies occurring in outer space, such as space medicine and astrobiology." Sounds like they mean all science done in - and about - space. Makes sense. Sometimes the top link from Google goes to "Space Science" at the National Air & Space Museum which says "Space science--science performed from vehicles that travel into Earth's upper atmosphere or beyond--covers a broad range of disciplines, from meteorology and geology, to lunar, solar, and planetary science, to astronomy and astrophysics, to the life sciences."

But use the phrase "space science" to a NASA person and the defintion is much smaller and limited. The first NASA link to come up from a Google search for "space science" is "Space Science & Astrobiology @ Ames" which offers this de-facto definition of their piece of space science as:

"The Division will pursue primary leadership roles in NASA missions and mission support activities, based on our current capabilities in the following key strategic focus areas: Life Detection Research and Technology, Mission-Driven Analog Research and Mission Concept Operations, Radiative Transfer Modelling, Laboratory Astrophysics Research, (Exo)planetary Formation, Evolution, Characterization, and Technology Studies"

That is somewhat smaller than the top search result. But it is the first time something from NASA shows up. Not everyone is going to understand the whole field center organizational aspect of NASA. They will simply see "NASA". The next search result you get us is "Space Science" - a PDF reflexting the FY 2003 budget plan that says:

"NASA's Space Science Enterprise will continue to address these four profound questions: How did the universe begin and evolve? We seek to explain the earliest moments of the universe, how stars and galaxies formed, and how matter and energy are entwined on the grandest scales. How did we get here? We investigate how the chemical elements necessary for life have been built up and dispersed throughout the cosmos, evidence about how the Sun affects Earth, similarities between Earth and other planets, and how comets and asteroids in our solar system affect Earth. Where are we going? Our ultimate place in the cosmos is wrapped up in the fate of the universe. Humanity has taken its first steps off our home world, and we will contribute to making it safe to travel throughout the solar system. Are we alone? Beyond astrophysics and cosmology, there lies the central human question: Are we on Earth because of an improbable accident of nature? Or is life, perhaps even intelligent life, scattered throughout the cosmos? Now, in support of the President's new vision of space exploration, orbiting observatories and planetary probes will be joined by human explorers in seeking answers to these questions. Robotic scouts will blaze the trail, reconnoitering the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets of the solar system in advance of human expeditions, as observatories monitor the sun and its effects on its planetary retinue. The Space Science Enterprise will work with the new Exploration Systems Enterprise to develop and deploy new technologies, first on automated spacecraft and then on human missions."

That is much more expansive and seems to include pretty much everything that the Wikipedia definition describes. But there is no mention of Artemis. Oh wait: that is because it is from the FY 2003 era "Vision for Space Exploration" era under President George W. Bush. This is 2020. A 17 year old page like this showing up in a Google search result is easily found and easily remedied. But NASA does not seem to care. Nowhere in the top pages of search results for "space science" is there a link to a NASA page other than the one to the division at Ames. NASA is the pre-eminent space agency when it comes to space science so this is a little odd when a search for "space science" results in one page from a field center and another from 2003.

So lets make the Google search a little more specific for "NASA Space Science". The first search result we get - which is highlighted by Google is the one mentioned above describing a division at NASA Ames. The second result is Science at NASA - - the main NASA Science Mission Directorate page at If you click "about us" you get some pictures but no definition of what Space Science is. The link on that page to "NASA's Science Vision" gets you to this:

"NASA's science program seeks answers to profound questions that touch us all: How and why are Earth's climate and the environment changing? How and why does the Sun vary and affect Earth and the rest of the solar system? How do planets and life originate? How does the universe work, and what are its origin and destiny? Are we alone?"

No mention is made of studying humans in space or other science done on ISS. But if you go down several links you get "Space Station Research & Technology" which talks about the science done in space on the ISS with lots of useful links to other resources. Alas, there is no link to this page from nor does this page link to - so anyone landing at will not know that there is a resource for ISS research unless they dig around for a while. Conversely people arriving at this ISS science page might not get a full appreciation of the vast scope of NASA's various science programs.

If you take the route of skipping Google and just going directly to you see these categories at the top of the page: "Humans in Space, Moon to Mars, Earth, Space Tech, Flight, Solar System and Beyond, STEM Engagement, History, Benefits to You"

The "Earth" and "Solar System and Beyond" pages point to content outside of the official NASA Space Science page at and do not point to Conversely does not point to the "Earth" and "Solar System and Beyond" pages. So you have two independent and inconsistent lines of communication. But wait there's more: The "Humans in space page" page linked to from does not point to the "Space Station Research & Technology" page. So you have a similar redundant path in NASA's overall web strategy that is duplication and unnecessary.

Google cannot improve on bad website design. Its algorithms simply bring forth results on how things are arranged on websites and how people find and link to these resources. NASA could easily delete old information like the 2003 space science page (or replace it with current information); cross link pages that merit cross linking and delete duplicative pages. If need be referral or redirect pages at old links can send people to the right location. A good web design will also allow Google's search spiders to find pages more easily and, if done properly, find them along the lines of topic organization that make sense when someone uses Google to find something. People using a revised NASA website design which is built with an eye on how search engines find things would also find things more easily.

NASA was tasked by its Administrator more than a year to fix this sort of mess. They have not. One of the problems, IMHO is that NASA is only used to being in transmission mode. They do not listen very much. They are used to being providers of information about NASA but they seem to lack any real input from actual users of information about NASA. If they did then their websites would look a lot different. I was once told by a former NASA AA that NASA is popular in spite of itself and its bad outreach coordination simply because its stuff is so compelling and cool. They are quite correct. And NASA is not only stuck in transmission mode, everyone uses a different frequency on incompatible systems to transmit.

NASA people are forever talking about how NASA benefits everyone else and how frustrated they are that more people do not see this. But these same NASA people are hampered by a system of stovepipes and competing fiefdoms at every organizational level at NASA that make a coherent and consistent story impossible to tell. It has been like this for decades. That said, NASA's cool stuff reaches around the world in spite of the internal roadblocks. Imagine what the agency could do if it finally fixed its outreach mechanisms online so as to facilitate - not hinder - this spread of massive NASA coolness?

Form follows function, NASA.

Earth's First Space Teacher

U.S. Department of Education Launches Space Mission Challenge for High School Students, Department of Education

"Today, the U.S. Department of Education launched CTE Mission: CubeSat, a national challenge to build technical skills for careers in space and beyond. The Department invites high schools to bring space missions to students by designing and building CubeSat prototypes -- in the classroom or at home. ... Each finalist will receive an equal share of the $25,000 cash prize pool as well as satellite development, hardware, and software kits. Challenge sponsors include Arduino, Blue Origin, Chevron, EnduroSat, LEGO Education,, MIT Media Lab, and XinaBox."

Keith's note: I did a thorough check. There is no mention in this press release of NASA. Nor is there any mention of - or link to - NASA on the competition's website. To be certain there is no law or regulation that requires that NASA be involved in everything involving space but it is weird that with the whole "Artemis Generation" thing that NASA hypes that the Department of Education makes no mention of NASA - and that NASA makes no mention of this competition.

Oh yes ... one other little detail: there is no mention of how the CubeSats get into space. Who launches them? Do they go up on a rocket or get tossed out of the ISS? Who pays for the ride? Details details.

Keith's note: Seriously? No educational degree is required to lead an outreach effort for the world's preeminent space agency - one that needs to reach 328 million people domestically and billions internationally? And this uneducated person can earn from $102,663 to $157,709 when the median income in the U.S. is just over $30,000 at a time when unemployment is exploding? Baffling.

The job I had at NASA required that I have a college degree and experience. I would have had great difficulty doing my job without a graduate degree. Was NASA incorrect in asking that I have that degree? To be certain life experience and enthusiasm is vitally important, but I am trying to wrap my head around the notion that NASA is no longer going to require college degrees for jobs that require scientific and engineering knowledge. Our society is already on a road toward collective dumbing down - you can especially see it in how people react to the science behind pandemics. This Administration seems to see actual education as a liability and they put that bias into practice every day.

- Eric Trump's Brother-In-Law Is The New Deputy NASA Chief Of Staff. Seriously., earlier post
- How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post

Here's the job description

The News and Multimedia Division within the NASA Office of Communications in Washington, DC is seeking a skilled individual to serve as a public affairs specialist in the Digital Communications Branch. The public affairs specialist is responsible for developing digital media strategies, tactics, products and messaging in support of NASA's charter in the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act to reach the widest practicable audience.

- Oversees the development, implementation, execution, and measurement of social media channel strategies, with a focus on content production, community management, social listening and targeted audience growth.
- Establishes and implements a modern community management strategy that positions the agency as responsive and engaged with online audiences.
- Leads the creation of digital media plans and editorial calendars. This includes managing projects requiring agency-wide collaboration with communicators who specialize in audio, eBooks, mobile apps, social media, television, video, AR/VR and web.
- Coordinates with communication staffers, agency subject matter experts other relevant stakeholders to ensure consistent messaging and a timely, coordinated release of digital products.
- Maintains agency-owned accounts according to best practices. This includes creating or updating account profile information and artwork, creating or consolidating accounts, managing follower lists, etc.
- Stays up to date with the latest digital trends, sharing learning with stakeholders and making recommendations for new tactics and tools.
- Supports agency events and programs, including live coverage on digital platforms that may occur outside of standard business hours.
- Duties described above are at the full-performance level. Duties assigned at a lower grade level will be of more limited scope, performed with less independence and limited complexity; duties will be commensurate with the grade of selected employee"

Keith's note: NASA has global reach and soft power that it simply doesn't understand or appreciate.

- How NASA Uses DIME/Soft Power To Extend A Global Reach (Update), Earlier post
- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, Earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, Earlier post

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef (earlier post)

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory. In 2010 NASA was instrumental in rescuing 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped in the San José copper mine. The mine is located near Copiapó, Chile. Parnal Observatory, where the VLT is located is 411 Km north of Copiapó a town with a population of 200,000. La Serena, the town where this photo was taken, is located 349 km south of Copiapó and also has a population of over 200,000. These locations are all connected by the same road (Route 5). I would have to assume that NASA remains a very popular entity in the region after the mine rescue - popular enough that its logo is something that children want to wear."

Keith's note: I have posted a link to this story many times. It involves a boy in Chile wearing a NASA logo t-shirt. Check out the tweet below. Apparently there are others in Chile who follow what NASA and SpaceX - have been doing lately. Yet another example of NASA's global reach. Oddly, NASA never talks about this global reach except to say it is big and broke records (sound familiar?). I have asked NASA for some detailed statistics about their reach during Demo-2. I got a few numbers about YouTube. Nothing about Internet reach in terms of country statistics, Twitter impressions, etc. You know - the sort of things that can show just how truly global NASA's reach is - with real numbers. But it is more than numbers. It is also about action. Why not retweet this tweet from Chile? It is non-controversial and inspirational. But NASA doesn't do that sort of thing. NASA has a vast, and mostly unappreciated global reach - a reach NASA itself simply does not understand or know how to fully utilize.

See "The True Extent Of NASA's Reach During The Demo-2 Launch"

Keith's note: I just got some additional preliminary information from NASA PAO about their television, Internet and social media reach. Yesterday I asked (audio) Jim Bridenstine for some numbers to substantiate his glowing description of NASA's reach. Bridenstine said "I think a lot of people saw it - I think the whole world saw it - and we're very proud of that." NASA Communications Director Bettina Inclán said "Our metrics are saying that peak viewership of the May 30th joint NASA/SpaceX Launch webcast across all NASA platforms was at least 10.3 million concurrent viewers - the most watched event we've ever had ... those numbers are only for the NASA/Spacex (event). That does not count broadcast and other agencies and news outlets that were talking and promoting this incredible achievment for humanity."

Here are the new metrics from NASA PAO: During the 4 hour period surrounding the launch NASA had 50 million total viewers. That is just YouTube. NASA also had the top 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Twitter trends during that period. For a brief moment a lot of people were watching that launch.

I look forward to receiving more detailed stats from NASA on the reach that this event had - nationally and globally.

Image: A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? Story

- NASA Media teleconference: Riots and Rocketships, earlier post
- That Time National Geographic Claimed Copyright On NASA Videos
- America's Excitement for #LaunchAmerica Is Not Equally Distributed, earlier post

Earlier posts on NASA's global reach

- Bridenstine: "The NASA brand is the most valuable brand America has"
- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- NASA is Still A Potent (If Underutilized) Brand, earlier post
- Using NASA's Logo: Expensive T-Shirts Or Global Soft Power?, earlier post
- NASA's Pervasive Brand Recognition, earlier post
- One Major Road Block To Bridenstine's Advertising Ideas, earlier post

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine recently made some public comments about his interest in having NASA organize its efforts and interactions along the lines of DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic) a buzz word that describes a strategic use of various forms of national power and influence. Often times you see the term "soft power" weaved into this discussion i.e. how can a nation use its capabilities in a peaceful, educational/humanitarian nature to project power while actually helping others.

I saw this interesting Tweet by @usembassydhaka - the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka (Bangladesh) about a partnership that NASA has with the EMK Center in Bangladesh. It has become obvious to me and a lot of people that NASA has an immense global brand awareness - and it is apparently almost perfectly good. I made mention of this in "Understanding NASA's Global Reach" where the NASA-assisted rescue of Chilean miners seems to have left a lingering positive glow and also in "NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated" which features a tweet about a group of students participating in NASA International Space Apps challenge in Kosovo. Now that NASA is sponsoring a special COVID-19 Space Apps Challenge NASA's visibility is certain to grow further.

This joint effort in Bangladesh is interesting. I have a strong interest in the region after the time I spent at Everest in Nepal in 2009 and I have supported multiple education projects in Nepal since my visit. So I sent NASA PAO and others at NASA HQ this inquiry. Let's see how they respond.

Keith's update: The folks at NASA PAO did a lot of sleuthing - globally - to answer my questions - thanks! As you can see this is not necessarily a NASA activity per se but it does show that the NNASA brand has substantial global impact such that it is seen as a de facto gold standard that many people and organizations w=seek to be allied with.

1. Can you tell me who the point of contact for this activity is at NASA?
This activity was initiated by the EMK Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh (see below), and NASA is not directly involved.

2. Who initiated this effort - NASA? The State Department? The Embassy in Bangladesh? Organizations in Bangladesh? Are there other NGOs or agencies involved?
This activity was initiated by staff at the Edward M. Kennedy (EMK) Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The EMK Center is run by the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka through its American Center in the city, in partnership with the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The State Department informs us that EMK Center staff received information about the NASA at Home program from the State Department's regional public engagement specialists in India, as part of programming ideas during COVID-19 lockdown. EMK Center staff came up with the idea to use the NASA STEM@Home resources as a hook to engage virtually with Bangladeshi students (primarily classes 6-13) and EMK MakerLab program participants, as well as the broader public stuck at home due to the Government of Bangladesh's COVID-19 lockdown and to encourage them to participate in STEM activities. To incentivize participation in the program, EMK is offering prizes to participating students and a certification of participation for all participants. The top 5-10 projects will be displayed at EMK once it reopens to the public again and shared via EMK social media platforms at the end of the contest period. After the program started, "কিশোর বাতায়ন (Konnect), a Government of Bangladesh digital educational platform that works with adolescent and youth, joined EMK as a partner.

3. Is this a formal or ad hoc agreement? Is there a signed Space Act Agreement or MOU or cooperative agreement?
No agreements are required for this type of use of NASA-produced educational materials.

4. Is this part of a larger program to engage people around the world? NASA's online educational materials are freely available to all users.
NASA coordinates with the State Department to inform U.S. missions overseas about its digital content, and to respond to requests from individual posts on a case-by-case basis.

5. Is there any linkage between this effort and the NASA Space Apps Challenge?
This activity is not related to any of the Space Apps programming in Bangladesh.

6. Does NASA consider this effort part of its interest in reaching the "Artemis Generation"?
The Artemis Generation are today's students - regardless of location - who will take us farther into space than ever before. The NASA STEM content and activities found on the NASA@Home site is intended to inspire these students in science, technology, engineering and math and to be a part of the future STEM workforce.

7. The original tweet had a 30 April 2020 deadline and the Embassy tweet says that it is 31 May 2020. Is this effort still underway? Where will the results of this activity be posted publicly?
Initially, the EMK Center proposed April 30, 2020, as the deadline for submission of projects, but as the shutdown of the schools was extended gradually, it decided to extend the deadline to May 31, 2020, to reach the maximum number of students. As noted above, in addition to offering prizes to the top 5-10 projects, the best projects will be posted on EMK Center social media platforms and displayed at the EMK Center once it reopens to the public.

NASA Internal Memo: Website Modernization and Enhanced Security Protocols 15 May 2019 (PDF)

"Currently there are an estimated 3,000 public-facing NASA Web sites, yet the top 10 sites receive 80 percent of all Web traffic. Additionally, some NASA partners operate Web sites on our behalf outside of the Agency, creating redundancy and accumulating unnecessary costs. Not only does this duplication of information cause confusion, each Wen site provides potential access for a cyber-attack on NASA's assets. The shutdown earlier this year gave us a clear view of the cyber vulnerabilities inherent in operating thousands of Web sites. We need to take steps to protect our resources in a hostile cyber landscap, examine our digital footprint, reduce costs, and maximize the effectiveness of communications efforts. In addition to security risk, multiple sites dilute our effectiveness in communicating key messages about our missions."

Keith's update: OK. In 2 weeks it will have been a year since the NASA Administrator told NASA to get its whole Internet act together. Has anyone actually done anything called for in his memo? The CIO shows no evidence of having done so (no surprise). She is leaving NASA this week - so there won't be much incentive to pick up this task there. As for PAO they seem to be perfectly content to list multiple NASA maintained websites for the same mission in their press releases. It is not even clear who is responsible for implementing this directive. I have heard that the task was tossed into the Chief Scientist's lap - that makes no sense. SMD issued a memo about this in September 2019 yet little seems to have been done since then.

In last year's memo Jim Bridenstine said "The shutdown earlier this year gave us a clear view of the cyber vulnerabilities inherent in operating thousands of Web sites." Here we are a year later with an even more extensive shutdown - with everyone, everywhere - relying upon the Internet - for everything. The whole #NASAatHome thing is great but it lacks an overall strategy. Its like HBO and Showtime making everything free for a month so you can binge watch. NASA simply takes everything it has and throws it out at everyone - everywhere. They have so many websites and Twitter accounts that there is little, if any, strategic coordination between these various efforts. They are counting on sheer volume. Soon the content is going to get stale. Then what? It's like a monstrous swarm of bees - NASA lets them loose and eventually they will sting something, somewhere.

One would hope that this second dose of living and communicating virtually will finally get the message through to NASA. Your cool stuff often gets out to people in spite of your efforts to communicate - and not always because of these efforts.

It takes more than a Twitter hashtag and a few buzz words to coordinate things, NASA. Sure, you'll get a sugar rush when the SpaceX and Mars 2020 launches happen - but then its back to the same old, same old. We're all in this remote collaboration thing for the long haul. Its time to start thinking that way.

- NASA Just Can't Stop Doing Web Stuff Twice UPDATE: Three Times, earlier post
- NASA's Confusing ICESAT-2 Websites, earlier post
- Progress Made In Making NASA's Internet Presence Leaner, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post


The Space Force is ready to launch, OP Ed, Washington Post

"The Space Force was a pet project of President Trump's, and there has been more talk about new uniforms and logos than the mission. But that's about to change: Sadly, for a generation that grew up watching Apollo astronauts walking on the moon, space is now a contested domain. The latest sign was Russia's launch of an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, joining China in demonstrating war-fighting capability in space."

Air Force Academy graduates cadets early amid coronavirus outbreak, first Space Force officers join the ranks, CNBC

"When you arrived in 2016 or so, you knew your graduation day would be memorable, but did you imagine that your commencement would take place in mid-April, or that each of us would have a face mask at the ready or that you would march a Covid compliant 8 feet apart on the Terrazzo, or for that matter, that commissioning into the Space Force would be an option," Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett posed to the graduating class. "Today, you are living history," she added. Of the graduating cadets, 86 commissioned for the first time into the U.S. Space Force. Vice President Mike Pence was on hand to deliver the commencement address."

Keith's note: NASA is doing the whole back to the Moon Artemis thing. They openly talk about grooming the "Artemis Generation". Yet barely a few months into its official existence The U.S. Space Force has just commissioned 86 officers. If Space Force can draw upon institutions such as the Air Force Academy to train recruits for service why isn't NASA developing a similar capability? Indeed, NASA often seems to be more interested in being a recruiting tool for Space Force than it does for itself.

Where is Starfleet Academy?

- Space Force Really Wants To Be Star Fleet, earlier post
- Space Force Is Using NASA Spacecraft As A Recruiting Tool, earlier post

NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge Cancels In-Person Competition; Virtual Awards to be Presented in May, NASA

"The safety and protection of the Rover Challenge student teams, our NASA workforce and all those supporting the competition is NASA's top priority. According to guidance of the Center for Disease Control and other federal agencies, traveling and gathering in large groups are heavily discouraged at this time. In an effort to comply with guidance and help restrict the spread of COVID-19, we regret that we must cancel this year's competition. However, some awards will still be given virtually, to reward the work that teams have already completed."

Keith's note: Too bad news media were not invited to this event. Perhaps more people could have learned about the various education programs NASA supports. There is no mention of this event on the National Space Grant page, home page calendar, on the Welcome to 'Inside Space Grant' page, or on the NASA STEM Engagement home page, When you visit the main NASA STEM page and go to the about the project, Consortium Directors and Websites, NASA Wants to Tell Your Space Grant Story!, and Space Grant in Action Image Gallery links under National Space Grant College and Fellowship Project on the left side of the web page you get a "404" (not found) error message (the links in the middle work). How can people learn about Space Grant when NASA does not tell people about events like this and can't even keep a basic website working?

According to the proposed NASA FY 2021 Congressional budget (page 651):

"EXPLANATION OF MAJOR CHANGES IN FY 2021 No funding is requested for Space Grant, Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). NASA proposes to use unobligated balances previously appropriated to support the termination of these activities, including but not limited to, ongoing administration, oversight, monitoring, and funding of grants previously awarded by the Office of STEM Engagement."

No money for Space Grant. Not good news. So wouldn't you think that everyone involved with Space Grant activities would want the news media to know the value of what they do? Guess not.


Keith's note: On this date 28 January 1986 the crew on board Space Shuttle Challenger, itself named after a fabled ship of learning and exploration, left Earth on a trip above the sky. And that trip ended in the sky. But their mission continues at Ad Astra

Challenger STS 51-L Accident

Keith's note: Dear person in charge of the NASA interns thing: Did anyone bother to look at this all-male image before it was tweeted? Did no qualified women apply? Really? Have you read the responses to this tweet? You apparently did not get the Artemis generation memo.

Keith's note: Yesterday at the STA luncheon Jim Bridenstine said that "the NASA brand is the most valuable brand America has" - Inside - and outside our borders. In October I cited an example of how NASA's logo - its brand - has a ubiquitous, global reach - and that it is associated with exciting, hopeful, advanced things with no known downside.

"This is a perfect example of so-called "soft power". This costs NASA virtually - literally - nothing. Having worked with folks in Nepal on things related to this, the mere visibility of the NASA logo and recognition by NASA is enticement enough to generate in-country resources and support. Done properly you can have a global awareness of what NASA is and does and spark interest in other nation's space efforts. And the cases where a country has no space activities, spur their development. One would hope that this becomes part of what NASA includes in its Artemis outreach activities - since the ultimate goal is to go there with other nations."

NASA has done a good job - an increasingly good one - at allowing the logo's use - and not discouraging its use when the its is used in a positive and inspiring context. This is a consumate, textbook example of soft power. One would hope that NASA can continue along this path and that legislation that currently hinders NASA's ability to project its message via advertising and other venues - can be lifted by Congress.

- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- NASA is Still A Potent (If Underutilized) Brand, earlier post
- Using NASA's Logo: Expensive T-Shirts Or Global Soft Power?, earlier post
- NASA's Pervasive Brand Recognition, earlier post
- One Major Road Block To Bridenstine's Advertising Ideas, earlier post

Keith's note: This is a perfect example of so-called "soft power". This costs NASA virtually - literally - nothing. Having worked with folks in Nepal on things related to this, the mere visibility of the NASA logo and recognition by NASA is enticement enough to generate in-country resources and support. Done properly you can have a global awareness of what NASA is and does and spark interest in other nation's space efforts. And the cases where a country has no space activities, spur their development. One would hope that this becomes part of what NASA includes in its Artemis outreach activities - since the ultimate goal is to go there with other nations.

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, Earlier post

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? ... You would think that NASA would want to capitalize on such a potent branding strength. To be certain, they try. Due to Federal regulations the NASA logo cannot be used for commercial purposes or to imply any endorsement without formal approval by NASA. While this limits its use to some extent NASA is able to control its brand - something that is very important. But the one thing that you would think that NASA should be able to do i.e. use that logo in overt advertising and promotion, is banned by Federal law. Congress seems to think that NASA promotes itself too much. Yet they simultaneously chide NASA for not explaining itself better."

Keith's note: I got this from a long time reader:

"The student chapter at UCCS is hosting a NASA Watch Party on 23 October. All AIAA members are welcome to participate. See more info below. The address for UCCS is 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy, Colorado Springs, CO 80918. Info to Columbine Hall:
AIAA RMS Educational Outreach"

AIAA Memo Regarding Diversity, AIAA

"Increasing the diversity of the aerospace community and the future workforce has been--and continues to be--a mission priority for AIAA. We've been seeing improvements in recent years, especially through the hard work of our dedicated AIAA Diversity Working Group. This year all 10 of the 2019 AIAA graduate awards were presented to highly qualified students, all male. These were the most qualified students based on the blind selection process. However, the aerospace industry and AIAA need to better represent the diverse world around us. .... It will take years of intentional, hard--but important--work to increase the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities in our industry, but we must achieve this moral imperative. I urge everyone to help build a stronger more diverse workforce for the future."

AIAA Shuns Gender Diversity In Scholarship Selections, earlier post

Keith's note: More pictures on @NASAWatch

American kids want to be famous on YouTube, and kids in China want to go to space: survey, Business Insider

"Neil Armstrong became a role model in the eyes of kids everywhere 50 years ago when he became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. Kids in a recent survey, however, were much more likely to aspire to be the next YouTube star rather than the next person in space. The survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lego, found that children in the US and the United Kingdom were three times as likely to want to be YouTubers or vloggers as astronauts when they grow up. The survey asked 3,000 kids ages 8 to 12 to choose from five professions to answer which they wanted to be when they grew up: astronaut, musician, professional athlete, teacher, or vlogger/YouTuber. Though the top choice among kids in the US and the UK was vlogger/YouTuber, 56% of kids in China said they wanted to be an astronaut."

LEGO Group Kicks Off Global Program To Inspire The Next Generation Of Space Explorers As NASA Celebrates 50 Years Of Moon Landing, LEGO

"Nearly all children aged eight to 12 from China (97%), US (88%) and UK (87%) envision a human going to Mars in the future. In China, about a quarter (24%) of kids who think humans will go to Mars say it will happen either this year or next. Three-quarters of kids believe that humans will live in outer space or on a different planet, though kids from China are more likely to think so (96%) than are kids from the US (66%) and UK (62%). Similarly, when asked if they personally would like to go to outer space or a different planet, kids from China are more likely to say 'yes' (95%) than are kids from the US (68%) or UK (63%). The survey also revealed that today's children are three times more likely to aspire to be a YouTuber (29%) than an Astronaut (11%). When asked 'which ... careers are part of space exploration?' Astronaut was the most chosen answer (90%), followed by Engineer (58%) and Computer Programmer (52%). Only seven percent of children see a role for a Farmer/Gardener in the space program, an indication that kids may not realize all of the different jobs required to support space travel."

Keith's note: This week we're all being bathed in a 24/7 wave of Apollo nostalgia. NASA's proposed Artemis program is benefiting from the afterglow. But what is going to happen next week when all of the Apollo hoopla is over? In Chinese students will be pursuing their dream of becoming an astronaut while U.S. kids will be webcasting from their bedrooms.

Keith's update: I mentioned this poll's results tonight on CGTN America:

Elon Musk's satellites threaten to disrupt the night sky for all of us, opinion, Washington Post

"if we let Silicon Valley disrupt the night sky, we will never get it back."

Keith's note: News flash - humanity started to change the nature of the night sky half a century ago. Without satellites we'd not know about weather until it happened. We'd have to use paper maps again. And we'd know far less about our planet and the universe. To truly bring back pristine night skies everywhere we'd have to forgo streetlights all together. Oh yes: A hundred thousand jets fill Earth's skies with lights and artificial clouds every day and cars and industry further ruin the atmosphere's clarity. They'd have to go too.

But this opinion piece singles out one company and goes after Elon Musk because he (and others) dare to offer the same level of Internet access developed nations have to everyone else on the planet. We have decided to become a planetary civilization - one that aspires further to become a spacefaring civilization. If we all believe in such a thing then that means that we will need to continue to transform our world so that everyone benefits.

There have been a number of op ed pieces like this that lament the loss of a dark sky for summer hikes with the kids. Yet none of them stop to ponder the question as to what these lights in the skies will mean to large portions of humanity: access to resources and opportunities that everyone else has had for decades - centuries.

It is confusing to see people such as the author of this opinion piece - who profess admiration for space exploration - ignore the obvious trappings that come with becoming a species that dares to go beyond the skies outward to the stars. Ancient peoples looked at those lights in the sky and immediately populated them with beings and created myths about their travels. Those stories served as the inspiration for innumerable feats of exploration. Astronomy has adapted to all manner of distracting things in the skies. It will adapt to these distractions as well.

We have gone from studying the lights in the night sky to building them. And in some cases, we now live on these lights in the sky. We have decided to become a planetary civilization. There is no turning back. Ad Astra.

Nepali student's artwork to land on the Moon in 2020, The Himalayan Times

"Kathmandu-based Kanjirowa National Secondary School today announced that it is all set to send its student's artwork to the Moon. According to Kapil Dev Regmi the Chairman of the school, the artefact will be brought to the surface of the Moon by Astrobotic Technologies' Peregrine lander, flown aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, both American companies, in the year 2020. "The art represents Nepal's unique identity which is very symbolic and it represents Nepal."

Regmi shared that Kanjirowa is very proud to send Nepal's first ever object to the Moon. The artwork was designed by Kanjirowa student Bipina Sharma, he added. Regmi also expressed his gratitude to Tristram Perry who has always been supportive of Kanjirowa. "I am sure it is an achievement and will be a time to remember in the future," he added. He further expressed his strong interest to work together with Ministry of Science and Technology and US Embassy in for further STEM project collaboration. During the program, a model of the Atlas V rocket was also exhibited.

It has been possible because of the untiring efforts of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) collaborator, Michael Kronmiller, with the support of his family and a world class team of advisers, including American astronauts, according to Regmi. STEM education was introduced at Kanjirowa with the initiation of Michael Kronmiller, joined by his father, former US Ambassador, Theodore Kronmiller, and it has been the first school in Nepal to introduce this high-technology-oriented curriculum. Kronmiller expressed his belief that US Government could contribute more to Nepal as the Nepali Government has taken STEM education positively."

Keith's note: It was exciting to hear that Astrobotic was selected by NASA to go to the Moon. This idea for this payload came from Michael Kronmiller. Mike was directly inspired by the Everest and Moon rocks that Scott Parazynski and I managed to get up to the International Space Station. Scott, myself, and Bill Readdy served as advisors for several STEM education projects that Mike did in Nepal including the flying a drone at Everest Base Camp. Mike is the son of our friends Kate and Ted Kronmiller who have been prominent members of the DC space community for decades. I can't tell you how cool this is. Scott and I often joked that our Moon and Everest rocks would stay on the ISS until we could figure out how to send them to the Moon. This is an even better option! Meanwhile a cubesat constructed by Nepalese students has been launched to the ISS.

Image: The Nepal Robotics' PEREGRINE Lunar Lander Payload-- 1" x 0.125" acrylic capsule including the Everest Summit rock. The Everest Summit rock fragment provided by Mike's Sherpa friend and guide, Ang Tshering Lama.

- Moon and Everest Rocks At Home in Space
- Video: Moon and Everest Rocks Installed on The International Space Station, 2010

Trump targets Pell Grant money for NASA's budget boost, AP/Washington Post

"The Trump administration wants to shift money for Pell Grants for college education to fund new spending, including a $1.6 billion bump for NASA to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024. Under a budget amendment sent to Congress Monday evening, the administration would use an additional $1.9 billion in surplus Pell Grant money to fund other budget priorities, including an infusion of new cash for NASA "so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!" President Donald Trump tweeted. ,,, Officials insisted the re-allocation of the Pell Grant money would have no impact on those currently receiving grants, which help low-income students pay for college. "This does not cut any spending for Pell Grant programs as the budget continues to ensure all students will get their full Pell Grant and keeps the program on sound fiscal footing," Office of Management and Budget spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement."

Keith's note: There are thousands - millions of people like this guy. If NASA can expand its efforts to attract and encourage this sort of enthusiasm - at all age levels - then there is no limit to where NASA - America - can go in space.

NASA Agency Budget Fact sheet

"STEM Engagement - $0.0 - The Budget provides no funding for the Office of STEM Engagement, redirecting those funds to NASA's core mission of exploration. The Budget continues support for activities funded in other accounts, including the Science Activation program within Science, which delivers science content and expertise through cooperative agreements with more than 25 organizations."

- NASA Budget Briefing

"Proposes termination of funding for NASA's Office of STEM Engagement, including its portfolio of grants and cooperative agreements and redirects funds to NASA's core mission of exploration.
- NASA headquarters will continue to be accountable for strategic direction and coordination of the agency's STEM engagement efforts.
- Continues internships, fellowships, and student STEM engagement activities and learning opportunities funded by NASA mission directorates.
- SMD's Science Activation program will continue to focus on delivering SMD content to learners of all ages through cooperative agreement awards."

Keith's note: This is not going to happen. The Obama White House tried this - once - and that did not work out well for them. The current White House tried this twice in 2017 and Congress aid no each time and restored the budget. They will do it again this time. But this time, education is an issue that the Democratic House will fall on their swords for. Who knows - maybe they will increase it beyond last year's level.

It does ring rather hollow to hear NASA leadership talk about all of the inspiration stuff when they look the other way while an effort is made to gut the heart of how NASA inspires: education.

- NASA FY 2020 Budget Fact sheet
- Ivanka Trump Supports NASA Education While Her Father Seeks To Gut It, earlier post (2017)
- Cutting NASA Education In Order To Save It, earlier post (2017)
- Senators Reject Trump Push To Cut NASA Education, earlier post (2017)
- Trump's NASA Budget Guts Earth Science and Totally Eliminates Education earlier post (2017)
- Earlier Education posts

It Was a Big Week in Politics for Star Trek: Voyager Fans, Slate

"The show's lasting influence can be felt in two stories from this week about prominent Democratic politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, both of whom are fans of Voyager and, in particular, its lead character. The first surprise nod to Trek in the political sphere came from the Daily Mail's unexpectedly wholesome interview with Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, who described how Voyager became a portent of her daughter's future success."

Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Nerd, Is Traveling at Warp Speed, NY Times

"She has seen every iteration of "Star Trek" and can recite with picayune detail the obscure plot points from incidents buried deep in the canon. She likes space-time anomalies. She admires Captain Picard but reveres Admiral Janeway. One of her favorite things is "Shattered," the 157th episode of "Voyager," in which the ship goes through a temporal rift that tantalizingly splits it into different timelines. Yes, this is Stacey Abrams, the politician who drew a great deal of national attention when she narrowly lost the race for governor of Georgia last November."

Keith's note: This may be lost on Trump space people but just watch what happens if the Democrats take back the White House in 2020. In the mean time, keep an eye open for this to bubble up during Congressional hearings on NASA's role in education, earth science, and inspiring people to look upward. But also watch for this to pop up in non-space discussions as well. Space exploration - and its role models - both real and fictitious - has lessons to teach outside the space realm.

Media Invited to Talk Tech with NASA Administrator at World Ag Expo, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will speak to, and take questions from, media about how technologies originally developed for space exploration now are used to cultivate farms, predict crop yields, manage water resources, and more, during his Tuesday, Feb. 12, visit to World Ag Expo in Tulare, California."

Space Station Flyovers In Flyover Country Are Not All That They Could Be, earlier post

"In 2016 people talked about "flyover country" without giving it too much thought as to what it meant other than that's where Trump voters and/or Hillary haters lived. You've all heard me rant about how I think NASA needs to readjust its education and public outreach efforts so as to reach the large sectors of America that do not usually get NASA's attention. In my mind there is some overlap between the flyover country meme and what I consider to be a chronically underserved portion of America's population when it comes to NASA outreach."

Doing Something Again For The First Time, earlier post

"Take a look at the chart below. More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including the person slated to become the next administrator of NASA and the entire 2013 and 2017 astronaut classes. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years this number will increase. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's several hundred million Americans waiting to see what I saw in 1969. Just sayin'

Keith's note: At its last meeting in September 2018 the NASA Advisory Council adopted this recommendation:

"Elevating the Status of the Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education. Recommendation: The Council recommends that the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education should become a regular committee of the NAC. Major Reasons for the Recommendation: A regular committee of the NAC that focuses on STEM engagement, and is made up of representatives from key stakeholder groups, will provide a set of diverse perspectives from difference constituent groups about trends and current events in the national STEM movement. Consequences of No Action on This Recommendation:
- The institutional knowledge developed by the current NAC Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education over the last 43 months will be lost.
- The Terms of Reference for the NAC Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education indicate that with no extension or formalization, the Task Force dissolves in November 2018."

On 26 October 2018 NASA Administrator Bridenstine sent a letter to NAC Chair Lester Lyles with the following response to this recommendation:

"NASA Response: NASA concurs with the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) recommendation to elevate the NAC Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education to become a regular committee of the NAC. To that end, BASA is in the process of formally amending the NAC CHarter to reflect this change. The name of this committee will be the STEM Engagement Committee. This change will tak effect immediately upon the signature of the NASA Administrator to the amended NAC Charter."

Keith's note: Apparently there is a NASA education competition for "Children ages 4-12 around the world, including NASA families, to submit artwork" on different space-related themes. This calendar was apparently announced on 13 September 2018

Given the global aspirations of this competition you would expect NASA to use its global brand i.e. @NASA and But there is no mention. Nor is there any mention on the NASA STEM Engagement page or the NASA Commercial crew page.

There is this one tweet from @CommercialCrew on on 16 September 2018 and another on 28 September 2018 . Today Astronaut Victor Glover @VicGlover also tweeted a link (Glover is one of the NASA astronauts who will fly on SpaceX Crew-1 mission). NASA's Stem Engagement Office tweeted about it on 17 September 2018 and again on 25 September 2018

Otherwise, that's it. If this was truly an agency-wide effort with a stated intent of reaching children around the world, you would think that the agency would have put a little more effort into utilizing its global branding - unless the agency is not synchronized in such a fashion as to coordinate activities such as this one to make the best use of NASA assets.

But why is the NASA Commercial Crew Office doing NASA education activities specifically targeted at students? Who is in charge of this? Is there an overall, agency-level NASA Education and Outreach plan that specifically calls for the agency's commercial programs to target "children aged 4-12 - around the world"? Of course there isn't. The White House tried to gut NASA education funding - one of the main points being that this education stuff was already being done elsewhere - so why is NASA trying to reach beyond the nation's borders? Maybe a little more of a domestic focus is what this White House is thinking about.

Since there will be effort required to set up and collect the artwork, someone is going to have to pay labor costs. If a calendar is produced, then someone will have to be paid to do that. And if it is printed and distributed that will cost something too. Is this really what NASA's Commercial Crew Office should be doing right now? Yes, its probably a trivial amount of money in the overall grand scheme of things. But this speaks to a broader lack of simple strategic thought on NASA's part. If the educational needs of children are really what is of concern, aren't there more focused products that stand a better chance of educating children than a glorified coloring book?

Ranking Member Johnson and Vice Chairman Lucas Introduce the Hidden Figures

"Today, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced H.R. 6795, the "Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act." Vice Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) is an original cosponsor of the legislation. This bill awards the Congressional Medal of Honor, Congress's highest civilian honor, to Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and all the women computers, mathematicians, and engineers at NASA, and its precursor organization NACA, who devoted their talents in service to the United States through World War II, the Space Race, and the Cold War. During this period, women submitted their work anonymously, were paid less than their male peers, and had few opportunities for career advancement. In addition, women of color were initially subjected to the indignity of segregated dining and bathroom facilities. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a Senate version of the legislation, S. 3321."

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Bridenstine says that NASA has renamed the NASA Office of Education as the Office of STEM Engagement. Yet if you look at the NASA Education website or the NASA Education Office website there is zero mention of that name change. Nor is there any mention at the NASA organization page.

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

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

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

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

Subcommittee Approves FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill (NASA Excerpt)

"$110 million is provided for the NASA's education programs, which were proposed to be eliminated in the budget request, under a newly named Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunities activity. Within STEM Opportunities, Space Grant is funded at $44 million, NASA's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is funded at $21 million, the Minority University Research and Education Project is funded at $33 million, and STEM Education and Accountability projects is funded at $12 million."

Keith's note: On one hand it is great that Senate appropriators halted the White House attempt to slash education funding at NASA (BTW the Obama White House tried to do the same thing). But then there's this goofy renaming of the NASA Office of Education to the NASA Office of "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunities". "STEM" is almost always used in a sentence with "education". So why not just leave it as the NASA Office of Education? The organization will seemingly do the exact same things that it has always done with the same budget albeit with this wordy title.

This would be like renaming NASA's Aeronautics Directorate as the "Wings, Engines, Aerodynamics and Development (WEAD)" Directorate. I remain baffled as to the rationale for this. Maybe they do not want to offend the Department of Education (which is doing such a wonderful job of undermining education on its own). But I digress. Again, the good news is that NASA education is being saved. But we're also telling students that its better to use wordy phrases and acronyms when the proper word choice is a single, illustrative word. But then again, that is what NASA is famous for: its acronyms. So I guess we call this organization STEMOPS now.

Larger image

Streamlining Licensing Procedures for Small Satellites, FCC

"In this document, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to streamline its rules to facilitate the deployment of a class of satellites known as small satellites, which have relatively short duration missions."

New federal policy would hike student spacecraft costs, threatening technology education, The Conversation

"In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country's aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee - plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year - to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications."

Update: Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation states in a comment that "the new proposed NGSO license is for constellations of commercial smallsats that did not fit into any of the existing license categories. All of the existing educational cubesats were able to get FCC licenses via the amateur or experimental process, and those processes remain unchanged."

3 Black Girls Competing to Win Trip to NASA Reportedly Hacked by Racists, The Root

"The three, who volunteer at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator program in D.C., sought to create a technology that would purify public schools' water systems through filtration jars that filter water while detecting pH imbalances. After making it to the semifinal round, the young women were in the lead with 78 percent of the vote (which someone was kind enough to take a screenshot of) when NASA closed voting a day early to "protect the integrity of the vote." Although several media outlets erroneously reported that the early close was because the girls and their fans had voted too much, apparently what happened was that someone hacked into the voting system to take votes away from IN3."

Three black teens are finalists in a NASA competition. Hackers spewing racism tried to ruin their odds, Washington Post

"But while the teens were gaining traction on social media and racking up votes, users on 4chan - an anonymous Internet forum where users are known to push hoaxes and spew racist and homophobic comments - were trying to ensure the students wouldn't win."

NASA Statement

"On Sunday, April 29, hackers attempted to change the vote totals in the NASA OPSPARC Challenge, so managers of the challenge decided to end public voting to protect the integrity of the results. The challenge team has an accurate record of the voting results prior to the attempted disruption. The top three Public Choice teams in each category will be notified and recognized on the challenge website. In accordance with the judging criteria and voting procedures stated on the OPSPARC website, a panel of NASA Goddard judges will make a final determination of the winners using the published rubrics."

Keith's note: NASA Needs to fix this. It should never have happened and should never happen again.

Why a 7 year old walked out of school alone, CNN

"Seven-year-old Havana Chapman-Edwards was the only student at an Alexandria, Virginia, elementary school to participate when students across the nation walked out of school in support of school shooting victims, according to her mother."

Keith's note: Watch the video. Look at what Havana Chapman-Edwards is wearing and what she wants to be when she grows up.

Former NASA scientist to lead National Air and Space Museum, Washington Post

"Ellen Stofan will become the John and Adrienne Mars Director of NASM starting April 30, the museum announced Thursday. She succeeds Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, who retired in January after 18 years at the helm of one of the world's most popular museums. After 25 years working in space-related organizations, Stofan said she is eager to shape the way the museum educates and engages the public about aviation and space. "One of my biggest passions is outreach and communication about science and technology," Stofan, 57, said. "What better place than the Air and Space Museum to engage everyone in the excitement of aviation and exploration."

Keith's note: I have been visiting NASM since it opened. For more than 30 years it has been minutes from my home. I have also rented it for receptions, done interviews there, written for its magazine, and seen one of my books sold there. And now there's an annex 11 miles from my house. I am a fan - for life. Alas, I have also seen how this organization fought back against innovation, ignored other people's ideas, and seems oblivious to the changing nature of how people interact in the real and virtual world. Some of their exhibits (the solar system for example) have not changed in more than 30 years with only a new picture inserted now and then. The organization needs a kick in the butt. I am hoping Ellen can do that. NASM could be much more than it already is if only they considered input from people other than the usual suspects.

Keith's note: The White House has submitted a budget request for FY 2019 which calls of the elimination of the NASA Education Office. They seem to think that education is not worth an emphasis. Take a look at this article (in French). A teacher in Ghana was so intent upon teaching his students about computers - without computers to use - that he drew screen shots on a blackboard that is not even a blackboard but a painted wall. While we toss aside the value of education for no cogent reason others on this planet go to extraordinary lengths to educate the next generation. Some countries know what is important for the future.

Ghanaian teacher becomes a hero of the web with this drawing on a board, Les Observateurs

"A Ghanaian teacher has become a star on the web after publishing these photos: we see him reproduce very accurately on a table the word processor "Word". Due to lack of means, Owura Kwadwo Hottish is forced to teach his students computer science on this board. But his photos, which sparked a wave of sympathy on social networks, could help change things."

Puerto Rico Students to Speak with NASA Astronaut on Space Station, NASA

"Several hundred students from 30 schools across Puerto Rico will speak with a NASA astronaut living, working and doing research aboard the International Space Station at 11:15 a.m. EST Friday, Jan. 12. The 20-minute, Earth-to-space call will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website Students will travel to Manatí, Puerto Rico, for the call to Expedition 54 astronaut Joe Acaba aboard the space station, and will have an opportunity to ask questions about life aboard the space station, NASA's deep space exploration plans, and doing science in space."

Keith's note: Its nice that students in devastated Puerto Rico will get a chance to talk to the ISS crew. Its certainly a nice distraction from months of arduous living. But there is a reason why "several hundred students ... will travel to Manatí, Puerto Rico ... More than 500 attendees are expected". As of last week half of Puerto Rico's residents are still without power 3 months after Hurricane Maria. So, instead of doing what most students do when they talk to the ISS i.e. log into an Internet connection - they have to get into buses and drive back and forth across the island to go to a location where there is enough electricity to power the uplink.

Oddly, back in 2009 I did an downlink/uplink session to the ISS from Everest Base Camp using a portable BGAN INMARSAT link that fits into a backpack. I charged its battery with solar panels. One would think that NASA might try using some of that advanced satellite technology they like to brag about to do this uplink and not make hundreds of students drive for hours to crisscross the island for a 20 minute event. And the gasoline that the buses are using could have been used to run generators to power satellite links back home using consumer satellite communication systems - and people's homes.

Its nice that NASA is thinking of the Americans who live on Puerto Rico. Perhaps other government agencies should be working a little harder to make life normal again for our fellow citizens such that NASA does not have to go to such extremes for events such as this.

Deadline for Students to Apply to the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program Is Fast Approaching

"The deadline for students to apply to the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program is almost here! Please spread the word--every undergraduate woman you know should seriously consider applying for this one-of-a-kind program. Applications are due on Tuesday, December 5th. The Brooke Owens Fellowship Program offers paid internships and executive-level mentorship to extraordinary undergraduate women who want careers in aviation or space exploration. Fellowships are available for a wide range of disciplines related to aerospace, including engineering, policy, business analysis, investment, communications, education, airport operations, and more."

Keith's note: Several weeks ago I posted "Doing Something Again For The First Time" which focused on the sector of the U.S. population that was not alive when humans landed on the moon. I have had 3 publication requests to reuse my graphic. Tonight I came across another graphic on Facebook. You can see it here at

In 2016 people talked about "flyover country" without giving it too much thought as to what it meant other than that's where Trump voters and/or Hillary haters lived. You've all heard me rant about how I think NASA needs to readjust its education and public outreach efforts so as to reach the large sectors of America that do not usually get NASA's attention. In my mind there is some overlap between the flyover country meme and what I consider to be a chronically underserved portion of America's population when it comes to NASA outreach.

I used to be on the board of Directors of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. We were always trying to understand where the underserved education markets were. I used to amuse myself by using Google Earth and its street view function to roam the U.S. at random looking for towns in flyover country that might have foreclosed buildings that could become Challenger Centers. I always found them - and they were always near big Walmart box stores.

Households revolve around income - where it comes from - and where it ends up being spent. It goes without saying that more income usually means more opportunities for people. And certain skilled portions of the labor market pay better than others. Look at this map (click to enlarge). In many ways there are "Two Americas" but not the ones you normally think about. In one America ("non-Walmart America") education, medical, and high-end manufacturing jobs lead the local economy. With that is a prerequisite focus on technical and scientific skills. In the the other "Walmart" America the focus is more on retail and service economy. Yet I would submit that while both Walmart and non-Walmart Americas have different business and educational mixes, their residents both share an equal capacity and desire to learn - and explore. And NASA is historically a prime magnet for such ambitions.

I'm not here to dump on Walmart. I shop there. But here in non-Walmart America when you ask someone to name the largest building in their city or town people talk about lots of universities, arenas, skyscrapers, factories, etc. Often in Walmart America the largest building is a Walmart - and you have to drive for many miles to reach it. But NASA focuses on communities where the big buildings are schools.

I am going to generalize and will get in trouble for doing so. In my 30 years of working for and/or watching NASA I feel that NASA aims virtually all of itself in terms of education and public outreach as if it is only talking to the the non-Walmart parts of the country - where people have a high technical expertise, easy Internet access, vote in urban trends, and have the income to pursue careers in exciting areas such as space exploration. It is always assumed that schools have the money to implement the stuff NASA posts on its websites.

That is not what you'd normally associate with flyover country. When Internet access is non-existent, school budgets are limited, and local job prospects lead young people away from (instead of toward) the chance to explore space, all of the fancy Internet stuff NASA blasts out online never makes contact. NASA has a website where you can find your town and get alerts by email when the space station is going to fly overhead. I go out every chance I get to watch it fly over my house. But what happens when your internet access requires a long bus ride - back and forth - every day - just to get those daily emails? The immediacy that non-Walmart America has to NASA falls flat in Walmart America. A space station flyover in flyover country is not all that it could be.

Oddly Johnson, Marshall, Kennedy, Langley, Wallops, Michoud, Stennis, and White Sands are all in Walmart America. Yet the interest within these field centers in engaging with surrounding Walmart America on themes and issues relevant to this sector of the population seems to fade after you drive out the center gates through a few county lines or zip codes.

The next time NASA crows in their #JourneyToMars tweets and SLS propaganda pieces about all the jobs that it has created in Texas, Alabama, Ohio, Florida etc. just remember that Walmart consistently does an even better job at employing more people than NASA does. Fact.

I'm not proposing any solutions. Let's see what the new guy does. But maybe NASA should partner with Walmart on the whole spinoff thing and put up a booth or kiosk in every store. They have 4,600 stores in the U.S. and 140,000,000 customers walk in their doors every week.

Keith's note: This notice "A Year of Education on Station" appeared with no fanfare on the NASA education audience page: "September 2017 - September 2018: Although on different crews, astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold - both former teachers - will work aboard the International Space Station. K-16 students and educators can do NASA STEM activities related to the station and its role in NASA's journey to Mars."

Cool stuff. Another year long thing on the ISS. Too bad NASA is going out of its way not to tell anyone about this. There is no mention on the homepage, nothing on the main ISS page, no mention on the NASA Education page, and zero mention on the CASIS website (not a surprise since they try to ignore any mention of "NASA" these days). Nothing has appeared on @NASA, @Space_Station, @NASAedu, @astroacaba, @ISS_CASIS or @ISS_Research either.

Apparently NASA just assumes that people will find this page within NASA's website. This is called the "if you build it they will come" approach. Or maybe people will notice that Joe Acaba has started to give out homework assignments.

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

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

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

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

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

Keith's note: This is kind of strange. If the intent for the NASA Education Office was to do something "NASA-wide" then you'd think that an agency-wide organization/approach would be needed for that. This is what the NASA Education Office has done for decades. But instead of thinking agency-wide and fixing the NASA Education Office they have decided to close the agency-wide Education Office and shove the remnants inside of the Science Mission Directorate. When I asked Acting NASA CFO Andrew Hunter about this he said that NASA does not have a response to this issue and that Acting Education Office AA Mike Kincaid is working on that. So, in other words, they are shutting down the Education Office - without any plan to do all of what the Education Office has been doing for several generations. Hunter and (earlier today) Robert Lightfoot both went off on the whole "inspring the next generation" thing and rambled on about websites and social media - most of which is not paid for by NASA Education office but rather by NASA PAO or the mission directorates. Yet somehow we are supposed to think that doing less education stuff can actually result in more inspiring of the next generation. But wait: Hunter thinks Congress will add things back. So why delete things in the first place if you expect them to be put back?

Senators to Trump Administration; Do Not Hurt Workforce By Cutting NASA Education Funding, US Senate

"Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, are leading a group of 32 Senators in a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to support NASA's Office of Education in the coming fiscal year. President Trump's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) would eliminate NASA's Office of Education, which works to inspire and educate students across the country to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In Virginia, funding from NASA's Office of Education enables students to explore careers in STEM-related fields at NASA Langley, NASA Wallops, and in Virginia's robust technology sector."

The irony in Ivanka Trump's and Betsy DeVos's push for STEM education , Washington Post

"In her introduction to the film, Ivanka Trump said that her father's administration "has expanded NASA's space exploration mission" though did not, unsurprisingly, mention that he actually proposed decreasing NASA funding and eliminating the education office. The Trump-DeVos event drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement:

"Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA's education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted."

There was also no mention of the 13.5 percent in cuts Trump has proposed to the Education Department, which include the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students."

UK schoolboy corrects NASA data error, BBC

"A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data. The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was "pretty cool" to email the space agency. The correction was said to be "appreciated" by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem. "What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds," Miles told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme. The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries. During UK astronaut Tim Peake's stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS."

TimPix Project

"In partnership with Professor Larry Pinsky at the University of Houston, and in collaboration with NASA, the Institute for Research in Schools is able to release data from the Timepix detectors on board the ISS and give students and teachers the opportunity to take part in this research."

OMB Budget Blueprint Excerpt for NASA

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is responsible for increasing understanding of the universe and our place in it, advancing America's world-leading aerospace technology, inspiring the Nation, and opening the space frontier. The Budget increases cooperation with industry through the use of public-private partnerships, focuses the Nation's efforts on deep space exploration rather than Earth-centric research, and develops technologies that would help achieve U.S. space goals and benefit the economy. The President's 2018 Budget requests $19.1 billion for NASA, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level, with targeted increases consistent with the President's priorities."

NASA budget would cut Earth science and education, Washington Post

"President Trump's first federal budget seems to make good on his campaign promises to shift NASA's focus away from Earth and toward space. But it doesn't reveal where he thinks the agency should be headed -- to Mars, the moon or elsewhere. The total cut to the Earth-science budget is $102 million, or 5 percent of the program's annual budget, and it almost exclusively targets missions aimed at understanding climate change -- the ocean monitoring program PACE; the Orbiting Carbon ­Observatory-3; the Deep Space Climate Observatory; and the CLARREO Pathfinder, which measures heat in Earth's atmosphere. Also on the chopping block: the entire NASA Education office, which runs camps and enrichment programs, provides internships and scholarships for young scientists, and oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields."

Trump's NASA budget preserves Mars mission, cuts Earth science, asteroid trip, education, USA Today

"Trump's vision for NASA calls for some dramatic shifts from the priorities the space agency pursued under President Obama, according to a broad budget outline the White House released Thursday. Line-item details on the administration's proposed spending plan for NASA and other executive branch agencies are expected in the coming weeks."

Message From the Acting NASA Administrator: Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request

"While more detailed budget information will be released in May, we have received a top line budget number for the agency as part of an overall government budget rollout of more than $19 billion. This is in line with our funding in recent years, and will enable us to effectively execute our core mission for the nation, even during these times of fiscal constraint. While the budget and appropriation process still has a long way to go, this budget enables us to continue our work with industry to enhance government capabilities, send humans deeper into space, continue our innovative aeronautics efforts and explore our universe."

Keith's note: NASA made out far better than other agencies. But the cuts to Earth science at NASA, NOAA and elsewhere clearly show a climate change denial trend. Equally as troubling are the cuts within agencies to education projects as well as to the education department itself. You do not need to worry about NASA Earth Science stuff being sent to NOAA since their cuts are even more extreme than NASA's. Lightfoot makes no mention whatsoever of the cuts to Earth science - he just says that "some missions are not going to go forward".

NASA's Acting Administrator also seems to think it is OK to demolish NASA's education office and that somehow NASA will make that function work elsewhere. No. There is a clear message being sent to government agencies and the White House and Congress will be watching to make sure that no education efforts are going on at NASA - just like they already make certain that NASA does not "advertise" its accomplishments to the American people.

But Robert Lightfoot wants you to think that this is all good news. NASA's leaders no longer lead. They just roll over.


Remembering the Challenger Crew, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

"On this day 31 years ago, Space Shuttle Challenger and its seven-member crew were tragically lost. The crew members - Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith - were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. Challenger Center, formed by the families of the crew, is dedicated to the educational spirit of their mission. Every year, together with our 43 Challenger Learning Centers, we provide more than 250,000 students with the opportunity to become scientists, engineers, and innovators through unique education experiences."

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? Worden sent me this picture today. He is currently in Chile to announce that Breakthrough Initiatives has teamed with the European Southern Observatory to use the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to observe Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the destination of Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. Enhancements will be made to the VLT to allow it to detect small, potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system and possibly other star systems. So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory."

Keith's note: NASA does not seem to know how large Canada actually is - check the illustration they have online.

Harriett Jenkins

Dr. Harriett G. Jenkins, has passed away. Funeral Services and other details forthcoming.

Harriet Jenkins, The History Makers

"From 1974 until 1992, Jenkins worked as the assistant administrator for equal opportunity programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ... From 1992 until 1996, she worked with the U.S. Congress and served as the director at the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices in the U.S. Senate. ... Jenkins retired from the federal government in 1996. In 2000, NASA established a fellowship program in her name, awarding doctoral fellowships to qualifying minority students. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including placing her retirement in the Congressional Record."

The viewing for Dr. Jenkins will be at:
McGuire Funeral Service, Inc
7400 Georgia Ave NW
Washington DC 20012
Sunday, January 8, 2017
2-4 p.m.

NASA MissionSTEM Summit 2016 - Opening Session and Keynote Address, NASA

"For two days, experts in civil rights compliance and education will discuss best practices for ensuring equal opportunity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and exchange ideas for tackling the challenges faced by grantee institutions and compliance officials. The summit is designed to take NASA's civil rights technical assistance efforts relating to STEM to a new level."

"Special guest speakers at this opening session include NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, Tina Tchen, assistant to President Obama and chief of staff to the First Lady, and Jo Handelsman, associate director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."

- Update: Stealth NASA STEM Event is Actually A Stealth Sexual Harassment Event
- Dava Newman's Mission STEM Conference Still In Stealth Mode
- Dava Newman Announces Stealth STEM Conference

Keith's note: One week ago at the NASA Advisory Council meeting Dava Newman was gushing about a "Mission STEM" conference they NASA is holding in Washington, DC on 8-9 August with "hundreds of attendees" and partnerships with other agencies. A week after my first post, there is still no mention of this event at NASA's calendar, NASA's Education webpage or even at the official webpage. If you look at the weekly NASA Education Express Message -- Aug. 4, 2016 from NASA's Education Office you will see no mention of this event either. How are people outside of NASA's little bubble supposed to know about these things?

Dava Newman Announces Stealth STEM Conference, earlier post

Doug O'Handley

Doug O'Handley, Indomitable​ Influence for Hundreds of Space Professionals, Passes

"Douglas Alexander O'Handley, Ph.D., died peacefully at home in Morgan Hill, California July 28, 2016, at the age of 79. ... In the mid-1990s, Doug created and taught a multi-disciplinary undergraduate course in astrobiology at Santa Clara University. He - and the course - were wildly popular. From this course and the program initiated by Jerry Soffen at NASA Goddard, the seeds were planted for the NASA Ames Astrobiology Academy - a summer leadership development program committed to excellence that has operated for nearly 20 years (later the Space Exploration Academy). The Academy catalyzed and inspired the lives of more than 240 students, many of whom are now well-established in scientific disciplines and careers around the country, ranging from NASA flight surgeons and principal investigators on multiple missions, to leaders inspiring others with their careers in academia, government and industry. Doug and Christy drew enormous pleasure from hosting the students that each year brought to their home on evenings, weekends and holidays - whether skiing with astronauts at Squaw Valley, boating on Lake Tahoe or backyard BBQs. The Academy students quickly became a part of Doug's family, always welcome at any time. Doug was present for many life events of his former students, including officiating three weddings and introducing more than a dozen couples who are now married."


"We invite you to join us at St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, California, on Saturday, August 20, at 2 p.m. for a mass in honor of Doug and a reception to follow to enjoy the many wonderful memories and accomplishments."

Keith's note: Doug was doing things 20 years ago that no one else at NASA was doing - before there was social media, STEM, NASA socials, etc. While lots of "education" people talk about education and put out powerpoint slides, Doug rolled up his sleeves and just made things happen. More than once Doug would invite me to give his students a lecture on "How To Break the Rules at NASA". He wanted them to know how the place really worked. His efforts led directly to the inspiration of a large number of very fine young people - many of whom work in the NASA family. Doug and his wife took each class of students into his home as if they were family. There are hundreds of students whose careers went into overdrive as a direct result of Doug O'Handley and the NASA Academy. Each one of them has a story to tell - each story points to the enduring power of NASA as a motivator - with Doug holding a hand while also holding a big magnifying glass and bull horn to accentuate the effect. One only has to look at Doug's Facebook page to see the responses from students who have learned of his passing. Doug leaves behind a living, breathing legacy that will endure and expand for decades - one that will expand off this planet.
Ad Astra Doug.

Inclusive Astronomy

American Astronomical Society Endorses Vision Statement for Inclusive Astronomy, AAS

"We believe that people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and physical abilities are capable of doing excellent science and shaping the future of our discipline. We know that identity is intersectional, and we see connections among barriers facing communities of color, women, people with disabilities, and LGBTIQA* people in science. We believe in equal opportunity. We share a vision of a more inclusive, more productive profession. We know that true inclusion and diversity require hard work from individual astronomers, organizations, and our profession as a whole to re-examine our professional culture, modify our existing practices, and remove barriers to inclusion. We assert that progress can and should be measured, and should be pursued with the same zeal as other strategic scientific goals. We have faith that we all -- as colleagues and as a profession -- can learn and improve."

Keith's note: A few moments ago at the NASA Advisory Council meeting Dava Newman was just gushing about a "Mission STEM" conference they are holding in Washington DC on 8-9 August with "hundreds of attendees" and partnerships with other agencies. Yet there is no mention of this event at NASA's calendar, NASA's Education webpage or even at If you look at the weekly NASA Education Express Message -- July 28, 2016 from NASA's Education Office you will see no mention of this event either. How are people outside of NASA's little bubble supposed to know about these things?

Just watch. Now the secret about this stealthy event is out - little more than a week from today. Details will be grudgingly made public. You will see that this is an invitation-only event, closed to news media, and not streamed online. In other words NASA's avowed intention of seeking external input about how to improve its education programs is not something that they intend to share with the rest of us. Think of the vast national audience they could have when coupled with NASA's immense social media, website, and television reach. But no. Instead, its just more closed openness.

Meet NASA Datanauts: 2016 Class, OpenNASA

"In 2014, the Open Innovation team noticed a disparity in the ratio of International Space Apps Challenge participants -- roughly 80% men to 20% women. We embarked on a quest to better understand how to attract more women and girls to data by conducting a year-long study, which included a literature review followed by dozens of interviews with leading women's organizations in the data, tech, and startup communities. ... Based on what we learned, we created two new initiatives to signal a welcome environment for women: Space Apps Data Bootcamp, as a one-day pre-event to get introduced to data and code before the annual hackathon; and NASA Datanauts, as a year-old engagement to learn and practice data science skills. The all-female 2015 Founding Class of Datanauts, served two important functions -- to signal NASA is a welcome environment, and to help us understand their communities and how to design data engagements that attract more women and newcomers to NASA data and the new field of data science."

Keith's 12 July note: I totally get the issues that the NASA CIO's Open Innovation Team recognized and heartily applaud their decision to address them. But what I simply do not understand how they can discriminate on the basis of gender so as to only allow females to participate in the 2015 Founding Class of Datanauts. Males apparently were not offered an equal opportunity to participate in this government program. I am sure we all know that a lot of the issues facing women being studied by NASA CIO are faced by males too. I am certain that there are hundreds of rules and laws that are supposed to prevent such blatant discrimination. To be clear the new class (2016) has males in it but a quick unscientific survey of first names and pronouns makes it look like only 6 out of 49 are males. I am sure I counted/guessed wrong. I have sent an email to Beth Beck and NASA CIO Renee Wynn asking "Can you please explain to me how NASA, a government agency, could legally discriminiate against males in the selection of its "all-female 2015 Founding Class of Datanauts"?". The NASA CIO office never responds to media inquiries - so I do not expect them to start responding now.

Keith's 13 July update: I just got the following from Karen Northon at NASA PAO. She recycled/rewrote stuff from the Open NASA website, but never answered my question. Specifically, she took the title of my post and said "NASA does not endorse or oppose gender bias, but rather works to open doors to all newcomers to data science." Huh? They are saying that the agency has no position for- or against gender bias? Really? What set of government regulations is NASA following? So I asked again "Your first group of datanauts in 2015 was 100% female - your webpage makes pointed, overt mention of that fact. How is it legal for NASA, a federal government agency, to deliberately limit participation in a government-funded educational activity to members of only one gender?"

NASA PAO's full response:

Asteroid Named for Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, NASA

"An asteroid discovered by NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft has been given the formal designation 316201 Malala, in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. The asteroid's previous appellation was 2010 ML48. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) renamed the asteroid as the request of Amy Mainzer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Mainzer is the principal investigator of NASA's NEOWISE space telescope."

NASA misses a chance to promote the best-ever ad for the space station, Ars Technica

"Why doesn't NASA promote the film more? It's impossible to come away from A Beautiful Planet without being impressed by the orbiting laboratory and the international collaboration that constructed it. But where is the audience? My home is Houston - Space City - where astronauts live and the space station program is managed. But when the movie played here, it did so in one theater, on one screen, for a single week. When I attended, just a few astronauts and their friends and families were in the audience. As of last Sunday, A Beautiful Planet had grossed less than $1 million in box office sales across the country."

Keith's note: NASA never even bothered to issue a media advisory here in Washington. NASM did not send out one either. The plan apparently seems to be that word of mouth is the preferred mode of advertising. That said, the film did cost NASA money. Camera upmass, crew time, etc. When you calculate cost per hour of crew time, upmass, downmass, etc. it is not insignificant. You'd think that someone would be mounting a much more intense PR campaign - especially one that enlisted NASA. As best I can tell they had invitation-only premiere parties with lots of blue-suited astronauts (pictures) a few hand-picked media - and that's it. This webpage for A Beautiful Planet has a CASIS logo at the bottom. But there is zero mention of this film on the CASIS website. Nor did CASIS even bother to issue any media advisories or press release. I used to be baffled by this indifference on the part of NASA when it came to things that were clearly worth promoting only to see them do little - or nothing. Now I'm used to seeing missed opportunities for NASA to be relevant and explanatory in terms of public events happening once a week. As for CASIS - they are just clueless - and always have been. So no surprise there.

Groundbreaking Epigenetics Research to be Conducted on International Space Station, Zymo Research Corporation

"Zymo Research Corporation is taking epigenetics research to the next level outer space. DNA, that was bisulfite converted using the EZ DNA Methylation-Lightning Kit manufactured by Zymo Research Corporation, will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS), as part of the inaugural "Genes in Space" challenge. The contest invites young scientists to design a DNA experiment that uses PCR to test their scientific hypothesis."

Keith's update: This is a really cool project that taps the unique research capabilities of the ISS as well as stimulates students to pursue a career in science. I hope this is just the beginning and that there will be more payloads like this. But there is no mention in this press release of CASIS who underwrites experiments like these to the tune of $7.5 million - or of NASA who pays all of CASIS' bills. It is somewhat odd that CASIS has not made certain that they - and NASA - get some credit for underwriting things like this.

West African Inventor Makes 3D Printer from E-Waste, Inhabitat

"Kodjo Afate Gnikou, a resourceful inventor from Togo in West Africa, has made a $100 3D printer which he constructed from parts he scrounged from broken scanners, computers, printers and other e-waste. The fully functional DIY printer cost a fraction of those currently on the market, and saves environmentally damaging waste from reaching landfill sites. ... Gnikou is part of WoeLab, a hackerspace in the city of Lomé, and has big plans for his recycling project. According to his crowd funding page, he is working with FacLab-France in the WAFATE to Mars project, which aims to make machines from recycled e-waste to prepare for missions on Mars. Systems like the 3D printer could become a crucial part of missions on the Red Planet should they ever go ahead."

H.R.4755 Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act

"Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a plan for how NASA can best facilitate and support both current and retired astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators, including early career female astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators, to engage with K12 female STEM students and inspire the next generation of women to consider participating in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to pursue careers in aerospace."

Keith's note: H.R 4755 passed the House today 380-3

Nepal Robotics/Bullis-Kanjirowa STEM Update 20 March 2016, NepalRobotics

Keith's note: Mike Kronmiller and his father Ted are in Nepal with for their latest adventure: "Day two was much busier than day one. In the morning I had a meeting with the wildlife warden for the park at Kala Pathar (where I will be testing my drone) This meeting was critical for gaining approval to fly at Everest Base Camp. Luckily the warden was supportive of the project and stated he looked forward to a long term relationship with his park and the drone project. After that I went to Kanjirowa (our partner school) to pick up batteries for my drone. I had to have them made in Nepal because I am not allowed to ship the LiPo batteries from the US."

Nepal Robotics/Bullis-Kanjirowa STEM Update 21 March 2016

"In the evening I had dinner with american diplomats to talk about the future of STEM in Nepal. They talked about Nepal's first ever Maker Faire that they are supporting in September."

Janelle Monae Will Co-Star in a Movie About the Women Behind the Space Program, Gizmodo

"This is amazing. One of our favorite musicians, Janelle Monae is co-starring in a movie about the African American women who helped launch America into space, alongside Person of Interest's Taraji P. Henson. Hidden Figures comes out in January 2017, on Martin Luther King Day weekend, and it's based on a new book that comes out in September called Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Henson is playing Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer is playing Dorothy Vaughan, and Monae is playing the youngest of the three, Mary Jackson. The film is being directed by Ted Melfi."

Keith's note: NASA PAO confirms that they have been involved in his project from its onset.

Space Access '16 Conference Information

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

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

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

Keith's note: In the budget media telecon today I asked NASA CFO David Radzanowski what NASA is spending on education in 2017. As is always the case, NASA can never tell you exactly what it spends on education - or what "education" means. Their budget charts talks about $100 Million in 2017 - a cut from $118 in 2016. But wait there's more: $25 million for education from Astrophysics and another $6 million from Earth science. So NASA is actually spending $131 million on education in FY 2017 - not the $100 million shown on their chart. But this is only STEM education according to Radzanowski. When I asked Radzanowski what NASA's total expenditure for education and outreach will be for 2017 he said "I don't have that number".

NASA never has that number - so they won't get back to me on that because (again) they never now that number. They don't know it on purpose (or at least they will never admit it). If they answer the question accurately about what is categorized as "education" then someone somewhere at OMB or in Congress will try and cut that item because it has been labeled as "education". So things get hidden inside of budgets. As a result, no one will ever know what NASA actually spends on education activities. It is like this all over NASA.

Inspiration Endures

My Aunt, Judy Resnik, by Jenna Resnik

"You can shape your destiny and create your future, if only you try. Go find your 'other world', and remember that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars. The sky's the limit, people! Lastly, during all of your future endeavors, don't let what anyone else thinks get in your way, because as Aunt Judy said, "It is very important for you to realize that people who you consider to be heroes are really quite like yourselves. Only hard work and perseverance will help you to succeed at any venturethere is no magic of being more 'special' than someone else."

NASA Statements on Katherine Johnson's Medal of Freedom, NASA

"Katherine Johnson once remarked that even though she grew up in the height of segregation, she didn't think much about it because 'I didn't have time for that don't have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I'm as good as anybody, but no better.' "The truth in fact, is that Katherine is indeed better. She's one of the greatest minds ever to grace our agency or our country, and because of the trail she blazed, young Americans like my granddaughters can pursue their own dreams without a feeling of inferiority."

Katherine Johnson: The Girl Who Loved to Count, NASA

"In 1953, after years as a teacher and later as a stay-at-home mom, she began working for NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA. The NACA had taken the unusual step of hiring women for the tedious and precise work of measuring and calculating the results of wind tunnel tests in 1935. In a time before the electronic computers we know today, these women had the job title of "computer." During World War II, the NACA expanded this effort to include African-American women."

- Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?, previous post
- NASA Awards Space Robot R&D Projects to MIT, Northeastern, TechNewsWorld
- NASA wants to make a C-3PO to help colonize Mars, which may not be a super idea, Wired
- NASA selects Northeastern for humanoid robot research, Northeastern University

United Launch Alliance Reveals Transformational CubeSat Launch Program

"ULA will offer universities the chance to compete for at least six CubeSat launch slots on two Atlas V missions, with a goal to eventually add university CubeSat slots to nearly every Atlas and Vulcan launch," said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. "There is a growing need for universities to have access and availability to launch their CubeSats and this program will transform the way these universities get to space by making space more affordable and accessible."

NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades

"Humanoid robots will be helpful to astronauts on our journey to Mars, so NASA has awarded prototypes to two universities for advanced research and development work."

Keith's note: I asked NASA HQ and LaRC PAO how many colleges or universities submitted proposals. I was interested in how popular this whole idea was with universities across the U.S. Gina Anderson from LaRC HQ PAO replied "it's not our practice to share information about the number of proposals we received or which proposals were not selected." I replied "Its not your "practice", So, do I need to file a FOIA request? I am not sure why a simple number is not something that you'd readily supply. My interest is in how many school across the country were interested enough to try. I am not asking which schools they were." Gina replied "The program didn't provide that information. Here is the link to the FOIA page:" My response "I asked NASA PAO how many universities/colleges applied - that's all - and you refuse to tell me because "the program didn't provide that information". Can't you ask them? I mean, that is usually why someone asks PAO." You are requiring that I file a FOIA. Is that what I am going to post? OK. (shaking my head)"

So .. I guess I will submit a FOIA request.

Keith's note: Other than a short presentation by the President, Astronomy Night at the White House was a webcast with long periods of silence, dark murky streamed video of people in the dark standing next to TV lights, and bad audio. After an hour or two the actual interviews started - but no actual students were ever heard - even though the whole thing is about students. Neither NASA or the White House invited space media to cover the event and talk to actual students (or maybe they did - no one will answer that question for me - no media advisory was sent to me - and I asked). Apparently the kids there (including Ahmed Mohamed) had fun. Good for them. But as a highly-hyped webcast this thing fell short - it was just adults talking to each other. I wonder what this whole thing cost and how many college educations could have been paid for with the TV production costs.

Oh yes, NASA's Inspector General said today that NASA's Education programs are still broken.

Keith's note: (sigh) I only asked NASA and others a bunch of times about this. Clearly there are communication issues within NASA and between NASA and OSTP on things such as Astronomy Night. Funny thing: I was only interested in talking to actual students at the event - not the government wonks who are afraid to talk to me - and never say anything anyway.

If you go to the White House press briefing/media advisory page nothing is mentioned - just a fact sheet issued hours before the event. There is no place on the website to sign up to get press releases or media advisories by email or to apply to cover events. NASA PAO has a list of media who cover NASA in the DC area. They use that list all the time. They also make phone calls to media to alert them to upcoming events. The White House grounds were crammed with NASA personnel for this event. But not a peep from NASA PAO. If NASA PAO political appointee Lauren Worley had the White House media advisory why did it not occur to her that the people who cover NASA might be interested?

NASA OIG Audit: NASA's Education Program

"NASA's Office of Education has taken steps to improve its management of the Agency's diverse education portfolio ... However, the Office's efforts have been hampered by an outdated strategic framework and a lack of long-term goals upon which to evaluate the success of NASA's education activities. Specifically, the Office of Education did not update a 2006 framework document to align with the priorities outlined in the Agency's 2014 Strategic Plan until July 2015. Furthermore, the updated framework did not include measurable long-term goals that address the Nation's need to increase the number of students who earn advanced degrees in preparation for STEM careers. ... In addition, a lack of timely and comprehensive management information has adversely impacted the Office of Education's ability to effectively monitor program accomplishments and accurately report NASA contributions to the Administration's STEM education goals. ... in contrast to Federal guidance, NASA risks funding a fragmented portfolio of activities. We believe the Office of Education could reduce this risk by emphasizing coordination and consolidation as a priority in the initial stages of the competition and subsequently engaging the Centers to identify common themes."

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

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

NASA Is the Unlikeliest 'Design Firm' in Human History, Observer

"Earlier this month, a young maker named Ahmed Mohamed was arrested while wearing a NASA t-shirt after bringing a homemade clock to his high school. Photographs of Ahmed in handcuffs circulated around the globe along with the space agency's logo creating a new context for its design and purpose. NASA tweeted a response to the arrest with a STEM-related message of support and for a moment, the agency's brand became a symbol of social progress."

Let's let Ahmed go back to being a kid, Dallas Morning News

"In the last week alone, he has had star turns at a science conference in California and a technology summit in New York. He has shared the spotlight with the CEO of Google, the queen of Jordan, the founder of Mashable. Ahmed is a social-media phenomenon, a one-word brand, a global political symbol. Ahmed's a star. He's also a 14-year-old kid, and I hope he can return to normal 14-year-old kid life when the Ahmed World Tour 2015 is played out. The last thing he needs that any kid needs is to be a divisive political symbol."

Larry Wilmore interviews Ahmed Mohamed about arrest, USA Today

"After watching Larry Wilmore of The Nightly Show interview 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, we feel the need to up our tech game. And get a NASA shirt. The kid is just too cool."

Keith's note: Ahmed Mohamed brought an ad hoc science project to school. A digital clock to be specific. His (apparently ignorant) teacher thought it was a bomb - because - who knows. Ahmed was taken to the police station in handcuffs and questioned for hours without access to a lawyer or his parents. He was wearing a t-shirt with a huge NASA logo on it when he was taken into custody. How many kids wear a NASA t-shirt to school? He wore that same t-shirt for days after his questioning in various media interviews. Its not like that is the only shirt he owns. As such, one could reasonably conclude that Ahmed is a big NASA fan.

So ... here comes "The Martian" and all of that wonderful rah-rah can-do pro-NASA goodness blasted into a zillion pairs of eyeballs. NASA is working closely with the movie to promote a variety of things to inspire the next generation of space explorers. Great idea (really). Well ... one of those future explorers was taken into custody while wearing a NASA t-shirt because he got creative and pushed the envelope. He has subsequently been offered internships, guided tours, and all manner of things by companies and organizations - and he seems to be totally cool - even gracious - with the opportunities that have found their way to him. Even the White House asked him to drop by next month for an astronomy thing.

Ahmed is a space fan - big time. So what does NASA do? Do they even bother to invite Ahmed to visit NASA or offer access to its activities like so many others have done in other areas? No. All he gets is a couple of tweets. Yet the agency blissfully trips over its collective self to give unprecedented media access for a movie about fake astronauts - while a real future Mark Watney gets the cold shoulder after showing precisely the same character traits that NASA and Hollywood are hyping.

How pathetic and short-sighted.

Kickstarter Success for Xtronaut Game Supports Space-Science Outreach Programs

"Dante Lauretta, Leader of the NASA OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission and University of Arizona Professor, combined his expertise in space mission planning and technology with his passion for strategy gaming to create Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration. The Xtronaut game captures the various challenges and excitement of planning a space mission. Lauretta co-founded Xtronaut Enterprises with space entrepreneur Michael Lyon to increase awareness of OSIRIS-REx and other space missions through entertainment and education programs. They launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the game on September 12, 2015, and have exceeded their funding goal of $15,000 with over 300 backers."

Kickstarter campaign

Keith's 21 September Update: According to a stament provided to NASA Watch: "NASA is dedicated to STEM education and the engagement of students of diverse backgrounds and interests. We will be looking for opportunities to invite Ahmed and other students to participate in agency activities, and we will extend those invitations privately at the appropriate time."

Keith's 19 Sep note: The following was provided by NASA PAO in response to a request from NASAWatch:

"NASA has publicly voiced support for Ahmed and his interests across multiple social media platforms and reinforced the importance of encouraging students to explore science and technology studies and careers. His is a story that can help inspire new generations of explorers. Individuals across NASA also have expressed their personal support.

"After the President's social media post, the White House extended an invitation for Ahmed to attend the annual Astronomy Night with the world's leading scientists, astronomers, and fellow students in October. A number of NASA representatives along with other science agencies will be there to help support the event and interaction with Ahmed and other students.

"The agency has vibrant Education program that reaches students across the country and we're constantly exploring new ways to engage young Americans."

14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed arrested for bringing homemade clock to school, The Verge

"Police in Texas have arrested a 14-year-old boy for building a clock. Ahmed Mohamed, who lives in Irving and has a keen interest in robotics and engineering, put the device together on Sunday night. When he took it to school the next day, he was pulled out of class, interviewed by police officers, and taken in handcuffs to juvenile detention, after being told by teachers that his creation looked like a bomb. A picture reportedly taken by Ahmed's sister shows him in handcuffs at the juvenile detention center, sporting a NASA T-shirt and an understandably confused expression. Ahmed was fingerprinted, before being allowed to return home, but is still serving a three-day suspension from school."

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Irving 9th-grader arrested after taking homemade clock to school: 'So you tried to make a bomb?', Dallas News

"Ahmed Mohamed who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday. Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed's circuit-stuffed pencil case. So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it's a clock."

Keith's note: Yea this is the right way to encourage the next generation of space explorers, engineers, entrepreneurs. Note that he was wearing a NASA T-shirt. This guy could grow up to be the next Mark Whatney. #IStandWithAhmed

Point the Way to the International Space Station with This DIY Orbit Tracker, Make

"Given the International Space Station's host of superlatives (i.e. most expensive man made structure, largest artificial body in Earth's orbit, longest functioning habitable satellite, greatest engineering accomplishment of all time, coolest flying space laboratory, etc.), you'd think that it would be on our minds constantly. Yet many of us go hours, even days, without thinking about it once. There's a growing movement of people who believe that our space agencies are underfunded because humanity is just not paying enough attention to our present accomplishments and future plans in space exploration. Well, I know one way to direct attention to something. Point at it."

- Barn door tracker, Wikipedia
- Keith Cowing at Maker Faire: Hacking NASA

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 update: I just listened to Ken Savin, the Eli Lilly representative being interviewed at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC). Lilly has 4 experiments that will fly on the ISS next year. I listened to this while I was out in the woods walking. These experiments are all very basic, clear-cut and rather elegant - so much so that I came up with a parallel classroom experiment for each instantly - and I am not especially talented in that regard. Savin said that he wished there was an organization to coordinate among companies to share data and information. Gee, I thought CASIS was supposed to do this. Savin was then asked if there was some sort of database where data and ISS research results were posted. He said "I am told there is one" and that someone just sent him a link to it. I am baffled as to why CASIS could not send him this stuff earlier in the process.

Savin said that his company does not plan to make drugs in space and that they are really doing these experiments to learn. That is a rather cool thing for a large multinational pharmaceutical company to say about using the ISS. It ought to be on a NASA bumper sticker. I did a quick Google search for "Eli Lilly CASIS" and only came up with a few article links - all of them inside the space community. A search for "Eli Lilly NASA" only found a few more links.

With all the moaning and groaning and self-loathing evidenced by NASA and others at the ISSRDC about not having told the public about what they are doing and why, that someone would have flagged this sort of activity and built a much larger education and public outreach effort for it. But no. NASA and CASIS would rather complain about not being able to do this than actually trying to do it.

Ride Sally Ride

Sally's Ride Through the Clouds

"On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-7 crew consisted of astronauts Robert Crippen, commander, the first two-time space shuttle astronaut; Frederick H. Hauck, pilot; and three mission specialists -- Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard."

The Space Destination Debate Gets Us Nowhere ... Literally (Op-Ed),

"In following the incessant debate about potential NASA missions, I often hear NASA leaders, industry advocates and Congressional champions alike point to the value of these missions to inspire the next generation. Yet the more their arguments cause inaction, the more cynicism they generate in those they seek to inspire. The problem is not that young people don't understand the importance to humanity or relevance to individuals of a certain NASA mission. We understand perfectly fine. But we also see that these missions are doomed to die a political death when leadership at NASA or elsewhere in government has a change of heart."

Deployment! LightSail Boom Motor Whirrs to Life, Planetary Society

"LightSail's tiny solar sail deployment motor sprung to life Sunday afternoon, marking an important milestone for The Planetary Society's nail-biting test mission. Sail deployment began at 3:47 p.m. EDT (19:47 UTC) off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, as the spacecraft traveled northwest to southeast. Telemetry received on the ground showed motor counts climbing to the halfway point before LightSail traveled out of range. Power levels were consistent with ground-based deployment tests, and the spacecraft's cameras were on. "All indications are that the solar sail deployment was proceeding nominally," wrote mission manager David Spencer in an email update. LightSail is currently out of range until 2:26 a.m. EDT Monday. Ground control teams at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Georgia Tech will begin transferring the spacecraft's images from its cameras to flight system. "

LightSail Reboots Itself - Now Ready to Sail, earlier post

Sally Ride: Behind the Google Doodle that marks the late space pioneer's birthday, Washington Post

"Sally Ride, this trailblazing astronaut turned physics professor, for so long keenly studied, and then for so long taught, the laws of bodies in motion, as one thread in her lifelong work in science and technology. So it's especially fitting that Google unveils a "Behind the Doodle" animation, as we get to see Ride's own inspiring life-trajectory in motion. Sally Ride, in so many ways, still seems right out of central casting, as if the tale of an American space star was dreamt up in Los Angeles where, in fact, she was born."

Google, NASA work together on Disney show to inspire girls into sciences, Washington Post

"There are certain television tropes about computer scientists that just drive programmers nuts. They include the portrayal of coders as sun-starved and soft-bellied nerds who spend long hours alone in front of their computers. And almost always, those TV characters are male. So when Disney Junior approached Google and NASA last year for a new series about a space adventure-seeking boy, his smart sister who codes and mother who drives the family spaceship, everyone involved in the project was determined to bury those stereotypes. They agreed that done right, the show could help get girls interested in the sciences at an early age. After all, the data on gender and careers showed that the media can play a huge factor in girls' decisions to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a 2014 report by Google."

Keith's note: Rory Kronmiller arrived at Everest Base Camp, Nepal this morning along with his specially designed UAS quadricopter. Rory is in Nepal with his brother, Michael who is in Kathmandu. Mike and Rory are in Nepal to test out the use of drones for Search And Rescue and bridge inspection tasks. This is being done as part of a STEM education project between the Bullis School in Maryland and Kanjirowa National School in Kathmandu, Nepal. You may find their last names familiar: Mike and Rory are the sons of Kate (Orbital ATK) and Ted Kronmiller (aerospace lawyer).

More at Space College.

NASA Spacecraft Get a Closer Look at Dwarf Planets Pluto and Ceres, NY Times

"Marc W. Buie, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and a member of the New Horizons team, agrees with Dr. Stern but wishes the issue would go away. Years ago, people would be fascinated to hear the scientific puzzles about Pluto. Now, conversations usually start with "Is Pluto a planet?" "It's a very annoying, distracting issue," Dr. Buie said. "You have to get past this wall of this nonscientific issue before you get to the good things."

"The moon is such a planet I can't even stand it," [Fashion designer] Mizrahi says, exasperated. "Well, what else is it if it's not a planet?" Under Dr. Stern's definition, Mr. Mizrahi would win the argument. "I am happy to defend him," Dr. Stern said via email Sunday. "I see no logical reason why large moons that are in hydrostatic equilibrium should not be considered planets too, and I call them that." Dr. Stern's classification system distinguishes moons as "secondary planets," while "primary planets" directly orbit around the sun -- pushing the number of planets in the solar system to more than 20."

Keith's note: So ... let's see if I understand the New Horizons mission's revised solar system nomenclature: Planets orbit the sun. Planets also orbit other Planets. Moons orbit Planets but Moons do not orbit the sun otherwise they'd be Planets which also orbit Planets and the sun. But wait - there's more: now we need to add Primary Planets and Secondary Planets into the mix. So when does a Moon become a Secondary Planet? Is it still a Moon also? Can Planets be Moons and Moons be Planets?

Iapetus is not in hydrostatic equilibrium so it is not a Planet (right?). But it is a Moon (right?). But Iapetus is larger than Ceres which is .. a Planet (right?) Pluto's Moon Charon is smaller than Iapetus but Pluto fans refer to it as a Planet. Alas, Pluto fans always love to use the "Titan is larger than Mercury" argument to justify Titan as a Planet.

I can't wait to see how all NASA education materials are adjusted for the New Horizons mission so as to tackle this issue. Textbooks will clearly need to be revised to reflect NASA's latest discoveries. Who determines how these revisions will be made? Will other missions be required to adapt accordingly or is NASA going to be talking about more than one system of planetary nomenclature? What will happen at press events - will NASA be required to issue press releases in both nomenclatures (as well as English/metric)? WiIl this IAU Vs Pluto fans thing just drag on and on?

The oddest thing of all is how the Pluto fans rant about how some small group of people at IAU made this decision about what a Planet is without consulting everyone else - yet the Pluto fans have gone out and proclaimed this new nomenclature for Planets and Moons without consulting anyone else. Pot-Kettle-Back.

Why make things more complex? Our solar system has lots of worlds. Ice worlds. Rock worlds. Gas worlds. Some worlds are big others are small. Some worlds orbit the sun and are "planets". Some worlds orbit planets and are called "moons". This simply defines the location of a world - not its inherent physical nature. #OcamsRazor

Keith's note:At the NASA Advisory Council meeting today NASA AA for Education Don James was asked how many students NASA reached he said that in 2014 "1 million" students were engaged. When asked what "engaged" means James could not answer the question. James said that he did not bring a description of what "engaged" means in this context and that he'd have to go get a copy of that description. For the person in charge of all NASA education activities to not understand the basic premise upon which the numbers he publicly states are based is just baffling.

Keith's note: Am I missing something? I can understand the bad teacher part, but I am just baffled at how Tyson dismisses the impact of good teachers. If anything the value of good teachers is even more important when students have to endure bad teachers. Yet Congress, NASA, and the media solicit this guy's advice?

The responses are not exactly agreeing with what Tyson said.

Keith's note: This space education oriented event is underway at the National Academy of Science: Sharing the Adventure with the Student: Exploring the Intersections of NASA Space Science and Education - A Workshop. No obvious mention of this event is made at the NASA Education Office website (unless you happen to look at their calendar and read the microscopic and hard to discern text). No one from the NASA Education Office is speaking at the event. @NASAedu hasn't bothered to note the event either on Twitter.

Thinking of "Interstellar": And the Children Shall Reach Out

"First posted Friday, May 20, 2005: Every now and again even the most cynical of us stumble across something so simple - and yet profound - as to take one's breath away - and remind us of why we are so captivated with space exploration's broader ramifications."

Food For Thought



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