Recently in Exploration Category

Video: NASA Provides an Astronaut's-Eye View of Orion's Re-entry

"New video recorded during NASA's Orion return through Earth's atmosphere provides viewers a taste of what the vehicle endured as it returned through Earth's atmosphere during its Dec. 5 flight test."

NASA to Discuss Today Asteroid Redirect Mission Capture Concept, Next Step in Journey to Mars

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EST today during which agency officials will discuss and answer questions on the selection of an Asteroid Redirect Mission concept. The mission is to retrieve an asteroid mass and redirect it into lunar orbit, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s. The mission will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human deep space expeditions, including to Mars."

Asteroid Redirect Mission Critique, earlier post

"... It will require an ancillary spacecraft deploying either a huge capture bag or a Rube Goldberg contraption resembling a giant arcade-game claw. Neither technology is useful for getting humans to Mars."

"Has a Massive BOONDOGGLE Hobbled NASA? - Chris Hayes: NASA space agency celebrated a major successful launch on Friday. However, a former NASA official says it's being undermined by short-sighted politicians pushing old technology to keep pork barrel spending in their districts With Lori Garver, former Deputy NASA Administrator.
From ALL IN, MSNBC"

Orion Is Back on Earth

Keith's note: Orion has landed perfectly in the Pacific. Alas, only CNBC showed it live. NASA TV broke again.

Conclusions:
1. NASA needs to buy more bandwidth.
2. NASA missions are popular with people even if TV networks are clueless.





Before NASA Pioneers Mars, Orion Spacecraft Faces Tests, PBS NewsHour

Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren: (8:28): "I don't think that the current budgets amount to kicking the can down the road. They amount to - within reasonable limits - getting done the steps that we need to achieve in order, ultimately, to get to Mars. Eventually, yes, between now and the 2030s, we would need to ramp up the budget. At the current budgets we would not get to Mars, that's correct."

Statement by John P. Holdren on the Successful Test Launch and Recovery of the Orion Spacecraft

"We congratulate the men and women of NASA and their commercial partners for this successful test launch, and we look forward to future milestones on the journey to Mars."

"Miles O'Brien: It doesn't feel like its a well thought out campaign at this point. Its like a horse designed by a committee at times.

Chris McKay: The plan for going to Mars is not well thought through. I think that part of the reason why it is not well thought through is because the pieces are so expensive that they do not fit in the box. If we can knock the prices down on all of the pieces then we can fit them into the box reasonable and we may have a plan that works more clearly. Right now they won't fit because the pieces are so expensive that you can't put more than one in. So ... some people want this, other people want that. They've gotta fight because they can't both fit in the budget.If you can drive the cost down then everything fits in and everything can happen."

Smoke and Mirrors in Space

Orion Cockpit Promo Video

Video: NASA's Orion Cockpit, SpaceRef

"Orion's December flight test will be uncrewed, but the spacecraft is meant to carry people. Astronaut Lee Morin shows off the cockpit future Orion crews will use in this video. The first test flight of Orion is scheduled for December 4th."

ESA Ministerial Conference to Focus on Ariane 6, ISS, Exploration and the Evolution of ESA , SpaceRef Business

"The next ESA Ministerial Conference will take place this Tuesday in Luxembourg. At the top of the agenda is Europe's future access to space with a modular Ariane 6 intended to be meet the changing demands of the satellite industry as well as being more price competitive."

- NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee - Meeting Postponement
- NASA Advisory Council Science Committee - Meeting Postponement
- NASA Advisory Council - Meeting Postponement

"The meeting is being postponed by NASA due to exceptional circumstances and schedule conflicts of the NASA top leadership in connection with post-launch programmatic requirements of the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT- 1) on December 4, 2014, at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Keith's note: The original notices for these NAC meetings were posted in the Federal Register 1-2 weeks ago. How many months has everyone known that EFT-1 was going to be launched on 4 December 2014? Just wondering. There's an app for things like this.

How NASA Plans to Land Humans on Mars, Planetary Society

"On the surface, NASA's humans to Mars plans seem vague and disjointed. For instance, it's difficult to see how visiting a captured asteroid in lunar orbit fits into a bigger picture. But if you combine Gerst's speech with two days of symposium panels and a day of interviews at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the full breadth of what the agency is trying to do begins to makes sense. There is indeed a plan to put humans on Mars. Vague? Yes. Hard to see? Absolutely. But that's because Gerst and NASA are playing the long game. And right now, it may be the only game they can play."

Food For Thought

Human spaceflight: Find asteroids to get to Mars

"Some options are better than others. The cost and complexity of human space exploration demands that each element be measured by its value towards the ultimate goal: Mars. But NASA's stated next priority will not contribute to that aim. Its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)2 is a multibillion-dollar stunt to retrieve part of an asteroid and bring it close to Earth where astronauts can reach it. It will require an ancillary spacecraft deploying either a huge capture bag or a Rube Goldberg contraption resembling a giant arcade-game claw. Neither technology is useful for getting humans to Mars."

- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale (Revised), earlier post
- Congress, NAC, SBAG, Question Asteroid Mission, earlier post
- Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft), earlier post
- SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation, earlier post
- Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission, earlier post

Building Blocks to Mars - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference a panel of experts from NASA and industry discussed the building blocks of to Mars.

The panel discussion: The first step on a path of exploration that will lead to human landings on Mars will be taken in the coming months with the Exploration Flight Test 1 of Orion on a Delta IV Heavy rocket. After that, Orion and Space Launch System will begin a series of exploration missions that will lead to human journeys to Mars. As a capabilities-driven framework, these systems will enable a variety of potential paths to the Red Planet."

Marc's note: The panel discussed the "current" NASA approach. Politics, the private sector, other efforts outside the U.S. were not part of the discussion.

NASA Exploration Technology Review - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference NASA provided a panel of experts to discuss their Exploration Technology. The panel focused on the importance of sustained space technology investments to current and future explorations missions with special emphasis on future asteroid and Mars mission requirements. The panelists also discussed recent technology project successes and challenges."

NASA Exploration Systems Division Quarterly Report #2 - 2014 [Video], NASA

"NASA has released its quarterly from the Exploration Systems Division on the ongoing Orion, Space Launch System, Ground Systems Development and Operations programs for April, May and June of 2014."

Marc's note: Google last week launched new maps for the moon and Mars. They're available here:

- https://google.com/maps/space/moon
- https://google.com/maps/space/mars

NASA Holds Briefing on New Planetary Landing Technology, SpaceRef

"Today NASA held a briefing on its recent Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project test. LDSD is a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle which may be used on future planetary missions."

Space is Dangerous - Be Prepared (AIAA Space 2014 Astronaut Panel) , SpaceRef

"The panel fielded questions about NASA's seemingly risk adverse culture and its possible effect on future exploration, with Crippen admitting that "NASA has become risk adverse." Brandenstein added "that if we would have had the risk culture of the late shuttle era at its beginning, we would have never have launched STS-1."

... "On actual cooperation with the Chinese, Crippen expressed his support: "I believe we ought to be approaching the Chinese to be a part of that as well, they have a space program, they are well proven. We did it with the Russians and it worked out well for us." Crippen also noted that cooperation and information sharing would "naturally be tempered by national security concerns."

NIAC Announces Five Phase II Funded Concepts, SpaceRef Business

"Looking ahead to an exciting future, NASA is continuing to invest in concepts that may one day revolutionize how we live and work in space with the selection of five technology proposals for continued study under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program."

The Past is Prologue to the Future When It Comes to the Next Decade of Mars Exploration, SpaceRef

"Past missions, and in some case the spare parts of past missions, will help drive the next decade of Mars exploration, a panel of experts from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of California at Berkeley, told an audience yesterday at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Smith Statement on NASA Advisory Council Recommendations

"Contrary to this administration's rhetoric, the President's proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has many skeptics within the scientific community. And the experts who advise NASA recently stepped up their criticism. The NASA Advisory Council warns that NASA 'runs the risk of squandering precious national resources' if they move forward with ARM. One expert, Mr. Tom Young, went so far as to say that the ARM proposal 'dumbed down NASA.' For months, the Obama administration has downplayed such criticism. I appreciate the good work of NASA's technical advisors and encourage the Obama administration to take their recommendations seriously."

SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation

Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft)

"This report summarizes discussions and findings of the SBAG ARM SAT. The report will be presented at the SBAG meeting on July 30, 2014, and made available to the SBAG community for comment. The report will be finalized in August, 2014, following the opportunity period for comments. The SBAG ARM SAT echoes the statement in the CAPTEM ARM report: of necessity, this is a preliminary report. If such a mission goes forward, we recommend that the prioritization of the science, planetary defense, and resource utilization requirements be refined through a more comprehensive process."

Future of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program Dominates NAC Meeting, SpacepolicyOnline

"Another criticism is that NASA does a poor job of explaining why it is pursuing ARM. Williams used a chart with several bullets, one of which pointed to ARM's role in demonstrating techniques that could be used to defend Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids -- planetary defense. During questioning about those bullets, Bolden quickly chimed in to say that planetary defense is NOT a goal of ARM. It is a goal of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, which NASA is funding at $7 million in FY2014, he said, but not of ARM. He acknowledged that because NASA is doing both ARM and the Grand Challenge, there is a lot of confusion. "We need to get that confusion out of it. We are not saving the planet," he exclaimed. However, many other NASA officials, including Williams, include planetary defense in the list of rationales for ARM. Scott Hubbard insisted that NASA needs to have a single bullet explaining why ARM is needed, not a list of them, in any case."

NASA Needs an Indian Tutorial, Bloomberg Review

"What can the U.S. space program learn from the Indian one? Not much, if the standard is outer-space achievement: India's modest record mostly includes feats the U.S. accomplished decades ago. But if the standard is having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish -- and getting that done quickly and economically, there might be a lesson or two. Consider the speech that India's new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, gave Monday, shortly after India's space program successfully launched five satellites belonging to far wealthier countries on an Indian-designed rocket. Combatting criticism that India's space program is a profligate waste when so many of the nation's citizens struggle to fulfill basic needs, Modi offered a concise vision for why such launches are necessary: Many misunderstand space technology to be for the elite. That it has nothing to do with the common man. I however believe such technology is fundamentally connected with the common man. As a change agent, it can empower and connect, to transform his life."

India's Rocket Missions Are Cheaper Than What It Takes To Make A Single Hollywood Movie Inquisitor

"India's Mangalyaan satellite to Mars, cost a total of $75 million. The entire budget for the mission didn't even cross a measly $100 million. The movie Gravity alone cost $100 million, quipped India's newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi: "I have heard about the film Gravity. I am told the cost of sending an Indian rocket to space is less than the money invested in making the Hollywood movie."

Related stories at @india_inspace

NASA's First Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Test Flight a Success [With Full Flight Video and Highlights], NASA

"NASA representatives participated in a media teleconference this morning to discuss the June 28, 2014 near-space test flight of the agency's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

A high-altitude balloon launch occurred at 8:45 a.m. HST (11:45 a.m. PDT/2:45 p.m. EDT) from the Hawaiian island facility. At 11:05 a.m. HST (2:05 p.m. PDT/5:05 p.m. EDT), the LDSD test vehicle dropped away from the balloon as planned and began powered flight. The balloon and test vehicle were about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean at the time of the drop. The vehicle splashed down in the ocean at approximately 11:35 a.m. HST (2:35 p.m. PDT/5:35 p.m. EDT), after the engineering test flight concluded. The test vehicle hardware, black box data recorder and parachute were all recovered later in the day."

Pathways to Exploration: A Review of the Future of Human Space Exploration

Witnesses will be:

- Governor Mitch Daniels, Report Co-Chair (testimony)
- Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Report Co-Chair (testimony)

Committee Reviews Report on Future of Human Spaceflight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The report confirmed that NASA lacks a plan for human space exploration. The NASA Authorization Act of 2014, which recently passed the House with bipartisan support, requires a detailed plan for how NASA will land humans on Mars. The NRC's report offers suggestions on the best way to reach that goal. The report also calls into question the Obama administration's continued focus on the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), highlighting "an underlying concern that ARM would divert U.S. resources and attention" from other potential missions."

Committee Considers the Path Forward in Human Spaceflight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"The witnesses emphasized the need for sustained investments in the U.S. human space exploration program over multiple Congresses and Administrations in order to commit to a pathway approach and successfully achieve a human mission to Mars. Specifically, both Governor Daniels and Dr. Lunine emphasized that if budgets continue to only increase at the rate of inflation, the goal of landing humans on Mars will never be attained. The co-chairs also made it clear that regardless of the pathway that is adopted, there needs to be consistency over a long period of time that survives the changing U.S. political landscape."

- Hearing Charter
- NRC Says NASA Is On The Wrong Path to Mars, earlier post
- Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post
- NASA Should Maintain Long-Term Focus on Mars as "Horizon Goal" for Human Space Exploration, earlier post

NASA Announces Latest Progress, Upcoming Milestones in Hunt for Asteroids

"NASA is on the hunt for an asteroid to capture with a robotic spacecraft, redirect to a stable orbit around the moon, and send astronauts to study in the 2020s -- all on the agency's human Path to Mars. Agency officials announced on Thursday, June 19, recent progress to identify candidate asteroids for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), increase public participation in the search for asteroids, and advance the mission's design."

NASA's real life Enterprise may take us to other star systems one day, Gizmodo

"Dr. Harold "Sonny" White is still working on a warp drive at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Their work is still in the experimental stages but that doesn't mean they can't imagine already what the real life Enterprise ship should look like according to their math. You're looking at it right now."

What an Enterprise! NASA physicist, artist unveil warp-speed craft design

"According to NASA, there hasn't been any proof that a warp drive can exist, but the agency is experimenting nonetheless. Although the concept doesn't violate the laws of physics, that doesn't guarantee that it will work."

Status of "Warp Drive", NASA

"Warp Drives", "Hyperspace Drives", or any other term for Faster-than-light travel is at the level of speculation, with some facets edging into the realm of science. We are at the point where we know what we do know and know what we don't, but do not know for sure if faster than light travel is possible."

Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post

"How much has NASA already spent on this project? How much does it intend to spend on this project? Where do the funds for Eagleworks and White's advanced propulsion/warp drive research come from? JSC? HQ? Answer: The scope and scale of this project is small and commensurate with a university effort. Most of the equipment was pulled from storage to minimize capital procurement. Total procurement to implement the warp field interferometer is ~$50k. The funding comes from JSC."

Keith's note: Given the PR that centers on Dr. White it is a little difficult to believe that all NASA spends on this effort is on the order of $50,000 a year. Is this his full time job? If not, what is it that he does to get a salary from NASA? When you ask JSC what this costs you either get no answer or non-answers liek this. If this is a real project then you'd think NASA would want to be a little more forthcoming. If it is a real project, that is.

What will be interesting to watch is what visibility NASA PAO does - or does not - give to this in-house warp drive skunk works when it starts to work with the PR people for the film< em> "Interstellar" (there has been some preliminary interaction). Will NASA want taxpayers to know that it is thinking ahead or will it avoid all mention of this effort for fear of being ridiculed in the press?

Warp Drive Research at NASA JSC, earlier post

NRC human spaceflight report says NASA strategy can't get humans to Mars

"John Logsdon, professor emeritus of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said the report has a familiar ring to it. "They go through all this negative analysis and still conclude we ought to go to Mars. No one ever says, 'Let's lower our ambitions.' It's always, 'Increase the budget,' not 'Lower ambitions,'" he said. As for going to Mars: "It's a dream. It's been a dream forever. And will remain a dream unless something changes."

Mars or bust, says new report on NASA human space exploration, LA Times

"But the report said that if the U.S. is to take its space program to the next level, it will require more funds for the step-by-step missions that will lead to the Martian surface. It will also require, the authors said, more international cooperation -- including with China. Current federal law blocks NASA from working on bilateral projects with the Chinese."

New report: NASA Mars goal is not viable, Houston Chronicle

"There is also concern because, critics say, NASA is building this rocket without a clear path to Mars. As the report notes it is difficult to sustain a rocket program, absent a concrete, widely accepted goal, over multiple presidential administrations, and Congresses. "I would say the SLS is very vulnerable," said Mark Albrecht, an aerospace executive and principal space adviser to President George H.W. Bush, this year. "The wrong way to think about spaceflight is to build a bunch of stuff and then find an objective for it to achieve."

Keith's note: NRC says NASA Is on the wrong path to Mars. That's about the only thing they took a clear position on in their report. In writing their report the committee dodged all of the big questions with the excuse that it was beyond their scope/charter. Trivial mention was made of commercial alternatives or whether the SLS-based model is the right way to get to Mars. In the briefing yesterday Mitch Daniels said that funding for all of this is "the secondary question". So there you go - yet another space policy report - one that cost $3.6 million and is being delivered more than 3 years after it was requested. The White House and NASA will ignore it. Congress will wave it around and then ignore it too. In the end we'll all be where we are now - with incomplete plans, no strategy, a big rocket with no payload, and nothing close to a budget to make any of it happen.

Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post

NASA Should Maintain Long-Term Focus on Mars as "Horizon Goal" for Human Space Exploration

"The technical analysis completed for this study shows that for the foreseeable future, the only feasible destinations for human exploration are the moon, asteroids, Mars, and the moons of Mars," Lunine added. "Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration. All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal."

Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration (report)

NASA Statement on National Research Council Report on Human Spaceflight

"NASA welcomes the release of this report. After a preliminary review, we are pleased to find the NRC's assessment and identification of compelling themes for human exploration are consistent with the bipartisan plan agreed to by Congress and the Administration in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and that we have been implementing ever since."

The Planetary Society Announces Strong Support for NASA's Asteroid Initiative

"Our concern is that a rigorous and independent cost and technical evaluation of the mission has not yet been completed. We worry that the ARM effort will prove a great deal more expensive than is currently being suggested. As has happened too often in the past, cost overruns lead to budgeting difficulties for years into the future. NASA's numerous other worthy science and exploration endeavors become difficult to manage and complete. We thus urge NASA as soon as possible to undertake as comprehensive a cost and technical evaluation as is feasible at this early stage in mission definition."

NASA Exploration Forum to Showcase Human Path to Mars

"NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other agency leadership will showcase NASA's human exploration path to Mars at an Exploration Forum from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 29. The forum will be held in NASA Headquarters' Webb Auditorium at 300 E St. SW in Washington. The event is open to the public and will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Video: NASA's Path to Mars, NASA

"Get an inside look at NASA's next steps in deep space exploration -- from the space station, to an asteroid and on to the human exploration of Mars."

NASA's lofty goal of a manned Mars mission doesn't match budget reality , opinion, Washington Post

... But our current trajectory won't get us there anyway; estimates of the cost of a human trip to Mars run into the hundreds of billions. "We're going to have to figure out ingenious ways to do it based on the present budget plus modest increases," Bolden said at the summit. Or maybe more than modest. William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration, told the same audience of the need to "break the paradigm" of current funding. "We cannot do it at the same budget level we're at today. It's just not going to work."

NASA Administrator Discusses Getting Humans to Mars [Watch], NASA

"Administrator Charles Bolden outlined NASA's human exploration path to Mars during a keynote address at the April 22 Humans to Mars Summit 2014, held at George Washington University in Washington."

Marc's note: Bolden didn't say anything that we haven't heard before. He talked about the need for humanity to become a multi-planet species for survival and that the audience needs to face facts that we're in a very constraining budget period.

Risk and Exploration

Avalanches: Beauty, Wonder, and Danger - with video (May 2009)

Keith's note: There was a huge avalanche at Everest yesterday. So far it seems that 12 people were killed - all Sherpa guides. They were walking up the Khumu Icefall on their way to work. This (link above) is what Scott Parazynski and I witnessed in May 2009. At the time this was described as being a very, very big avalanche for Everest. As such, I can only imagine what yesterday's fatal avalanche at Everest looked like. No one was injured in the avalanche in this video.

Massive Avalanche Over The Lower Khumbu Icefall - with video (May 2009)

As I watched this equally huge avalanche (link above) a week later I was almost certain that Scott was in it. We did not know for a while if he was. As it happened Scott and Danuru Sherpa climbed fast and were above the Khumbu icefall when it happened. But Scott's climbing partner Rejean and his sherpa Dawa were caught in it. Dawa's quick thinking saved Rejean's life. Alas, one Sherpa guide was lost in this avalanche. It was a curious existence at Everest Base Camp. I awoke every morning to see the Khumbu Icefall outside my tent flap - calm and serene and always an instant away from becoming deadly. You get used to this - and then again you don't.

NASA has its risks and tragedies as well. That said it is always - odd - to watch both cultures (climbing and space) deal with risk. The similarities in risks are often eerily similar yet the ways that the risks are dealt with is often utterly different. FYI I noted this disaprity a decade ago and this led to the Risk and Exploration Symposium that John Grunsfeld and I put together for NASA in 2004. By coincidence, John Grunsfeld was in orbit while Scott and I were at Everest.

Life is very fragile - even for the strongest of climbers - or the most skilled astronauts. But that doesn't mean that all risks should be avoided. Many simply need to be confronted. The risks need to be understood and dealt with in a way that safeguards people while still allowing adventure and exploration to continue. Exploration is a risky endeavour - by definition.

NASA Advisory Committee meeting agenda, dial-in/Webex instructions

ISEE-3 Reboot Project (IRP): Our plan is simple: we intend to contact the ISEE-3 (International Sun-Earth Explorer) spacecraft, command it to fire its engine and enter an orbit near Earth, and then resume its original mission - a mission it began in 1978.

ISEE-3 was rechristened as the International Comet Explorer (ICE). If we are successful it may also still be able to chase yet another comet.

Working in collaboration with NASA we have assembled a team of engineers, programmers, and scientists - and have a large radio telescope fully capable of contacting ISEE-3. If we are successful we intend to facilitate the sharing and interpretation of all of the new data ISEE-3 sends back via crowd sourcing.

NASA has told us officially that there is no funding available to support an ISEE-3 effort - nor is this work a formal priority for the agency right now. But NASA does feel that the data that ISEE-3 could generate would have real value and that a crowd funded effort such as ours has real value as an education and public outreach activity.

Time is short. And this project is not without significant risks. We need your financial help. ISEE-3 must be contacted in the next month or so and it must complete its orbit change maneuvers no later than mid-June 2014. There is excitement ahead as well: part of the maneuvers will include a flyby of the Moon at an altitude of less than 50 km.

This Way to Mars

International Cooperation a Focus of From Here to Mars Senate Hearing, SpaceRef

"If we're going to send Humans to Mars it should be an international effort where cooperation with the Russia and other partners is essential. However relations with Russia have taken a decided cold turn of late including barring NASA from working with Russian colleagues unless it's directly related to the International Space Station."

Marc's note: Includes testimony, audio of hearing and link to video archive.

Keith's note: There has been a flurry of comments via Twitter and press releases over the past 24 hours about going to Mars - and what things we can do now to help us to get there. It all started with NASA Administrator Bolden telling an advisory group yesterday that "Inspiration Mars is not Inspirational". He was referring the the latest incarnation of the ever-changing mission idea first proposed by Dennis Tito. This is part of a larger discussion regarding the SLS (Space Launch System), destinations in space, the value of commercial space - all of which was turbocharged by NASA's stealthy direction to its staff to cut off all ties with Russia except those involving the International Space Station.

Bolden, the White House, and some Democrats want to do the ARM (Asteroid Retrieval Mission) as a first test of the Orion/SLS system. Republicans and members of Congress from states where SLS/Orion hardware is made want a more robust Mars flyby mission using additional SLS hardware. All of this is fueled behind the scenes by partisan politics and the puppetry by former NASA employees scorned by the cancellation of the Constellation program.

And no one in this food fight can point to a clear, cohesive space policy proposal - one with budgets, milestones, and overall goals. Indeed everyone's notional policy is deeply flawed and wholly out of synch with the realities of using the same old approaches to conduct a program of human exploration mandated by the government. But when has that stopped anyone from having a good argument about what the current Administration's policy is - or is not? Indeed that is what this is all about. No one wants to really explore space any more. They just want to argue about it.

The argument currently finds itself focused on asteroids Vs Mars. So lets start there.

ARM is not without its fiscal problems and fundamental flaws. If the whole idea of ARM is to give Orion/SLS system a test in deep space then they should actually send a crew *to* an asteroid IN DEEP SPACE. Grabbing an asteroid and then bringing it back to a location close to Earth via robot such that Orion can visit it totally undermines the purpose of a deep space test. Its like lowering a basketball hoop to make it easier for you to sink the ball. Your test now becomes a stunt. It would be vastly simpler and less expensive to send a robotic mission to characterize the target asteroid - if asteroid characterization was the main goal.

If a true test of Orion/SLS systems in a risky environment - for a first flight - was the goal, then NASA should do just that. But to suggest that a Mars Flyby is a good way to do this test is to run in the exact opposite direction - for a first mission. Operating much closer to Earth ARM has the virtue of providing a contingency return if any critical systems fail on their first flight. Mars Flyby commits to everything with no way to abort. The crew is along for a 500+ day ride no matter what.

So ARM is too wimpy and Mars Flyby is too risky. How do we test Orion/SLS? And oh yes, everyone is waving their arms as to whether either mission "helps us get to Mars". Well, if you have already decided that Orion/SLS is the only (preferred) way you want to send humans to Mars then ANY flight has to provide some value. Of course some missions provide more bang for the buck than others. So people saying that it doesn't help us get to Mars are simply playing politics with their preferred mission.

The issue as I see it is how you use this absurdly expensive system in a strategic, systematic way that reduces real risk without taking unreasonable risks and demonstrates systems and technologies specifically needed to land people on Mars. You need a firm goal, and a long term plan for what you do once you get to Mars and build backward from what it takes to meet those goals.

Here's the problem: NASA has no firm plan, goals, destinations, and it doesn't even have the slightest hint of any evidence that a budget significant enough to make Mars exploration possible is in the cards. "Some time in the 2030s" is not a policy to send humans to Mars. Its a punchline for policy wonks to use.

Indeed there is not enough money NOW in order to get started. Moreover, we have one singular government solution (Orion/SLS) irreparably mandated by a collision of meandering policies from successive White Houses with overt pork preservation tactics by Congress. No discussion of alternate approaches is possible. And when one private sector alternate approach appeared (the original Inspiration Mars) it was immediately abducted by big aerospace companies and morphed so as to now justify the Orion/SLS - the very thing it originally sought to eclipse.

Have I missed anything?

- Bolden: Inspiration Mars is Not Inspirational, earlier post
- Is Inspiration Mars a "NASA Mission"? It Depends Who You Ask, earlier post

Chairman Smith Responds to NASA Administrator Bolden about Mars Flyby Mission

"In comments before the National Academies, Administrator Bolden today misrepresented a Mars Flyby 2021 mission. The Administrator indicated that a Mars Flyby is not a worthy stepping stone to an eventual Mars landing because it doesn't demonstrate technologies. That is factually incorrect. Experts have testified that a Mars Flyby mission would utilize the Space Launch System, architecture that will be central to a Mars landing. He further contended that the Obama administration's proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) is a better stepping stone to Mars. However, the administration has not provided any details of how it fits into a larger exploration roadmap. The ARM mission lacks support from the stakeholder community and NASA's own advisory bodies. It is a mission without a realistic budget, without a destination and without a certain launch date. I urge the Administrator to get his facts straight when comparing the value of potential NASA missions."

Keith's note: Looks like Mike Griffin Dennis Tito Boeing Doug Cooke Chris Shank Lamar Smith is upset that someone has an opinion that differs from the (previously all-private) bait and switch Mars Flyby mission Dennis Tito now wants everyone else to pay for. Oddly, Smith and his pro-Mars Flyby cabal have yet to explain where the money would come from for such a mission - now that taxpayers are funding it. Kudos to Charlie Bolden for being honest. But His plan is equally flawed.

NASA Should Use an Ethics Framework When Making Decisions About Health Standards For Long Duration and Exploration Spaceflights

"NASA should use an ethics framework when deciding whether, and under what conditions, spaceflights that venture outside low Earth orbit or extend beyond 30 days are acceptable if they do not meet current health standards, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences."

NASA to Host Media Teleconference on an Asteroid Initiative Broad Agency Announcement

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Friday, March 21, to discuss the same-day release of its Asteroid Initiative Announcement of Opportunities."

NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement

"NASA intends to issue has issued an Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) on March 21, 2014. NASA is developing concepts for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which would use a robotic spacecraft to capture a small near-Earth asteroid, or remove a boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid, and redirect the asteroid mass into a stable orbit around the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System would rendezvous with the asteroid mass in lunar orbit, and collect samples for return to Earth."

NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement

"NASA intends to issue an Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) on March 21, 2014. NASA is developing concepts for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which would use a robotic spacecraft to capture a small near-Earth asteroid, or remove a boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid, and redirect the asteroid mass into a stable orbit around the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System would rendezvous with the asteroid mass in lunar orbit, and collect samples for return to Earth."

Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale (Revised), earlier post

"To be blunt, there is no compelling rationale for the Asteroid Redirect & Return Mission (ARRM). There never has been. Based on the way that Charlie Bolden continually stumbles through his conflicting explanation of what the mission is and is not, there never will be a clear reason why it needs to be done."

Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission, earlier post

The Path Forward In American Space - 2014 Edition, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"I AM UNEASY. I resent the passive attitudes many scientists have toward the challenge of science, especially their passivity concerning the greatest scientific, technological, and industrial opportunity of all time--- the development of space--- a challenge so limitless and exciting as ultimately to surpass all previous human accomplishments.... I am angry that so many scientists do not voice the scientific benefits of the expedition to the moon, concerned that industrial directors in charge of tomorrow are tranquil to the future, disturbed that our non-scientific Congress is unrealistic in its reasons for space appropriations, and disgusted with scientific journals that have abdicated their responsibilities of leadership and fail, even, to present a point of view. Hundreds of important scientific and cold-cash reasons abound for going to the moon..."

These words could have been written by myself or a number of other space advocates over the last few years (it could also be written about Mars). However, these were written as the preface to a book "The Case for Going to the Moon", written in 1965 by Neil Ruzic, the editor and publisher of the 1960's era journal Industrial Research. The forward to the "Case for Going to the Moon" was written by Arthur C. Clarke. ...

Cooke: America needs a plan for space exploration, Opinion, Houston Chronicle

"Through logical progression and meaningful missions, I believe Americans will be motivated to support appropriate but reasonable budgets, that are commensurate with the value of the plan and the work needed to accomplish it. We cannot afford to delay or prolong the debate, because timing is critical to catch the unique planetary alignment that makes the first step possible in 2021."

Keith's note: Once again Doug Cooke is incapable and/or unwilling to give budget estimates. But he knows enough, so it would seem, to state that everyone will accept these "reasonable" costs. He never says that NASA's budget will need to be increased substantially in order to do this Mars flyby with SLS/Orion. Does that mean he will take the funds from elsewhere? Flying a mission to Mars in 2021 means that NASA needs to start on this yesterday - and its current and projected budgets will simply not allow SLS/Orion/Mars flyby and ISS to be fully supported simultaneously. Clearly ISS will bear the brunt of the obvious budget reconfiguration. He is saving the sticker shock for later.

Cooke also neglects to mention that he is a Boeing consultant (they are heavily involved in SLS) and that he advises Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars project - where this whole flyby thing began.

Letter from Rep. Wolf and Smith To NASA About Mars Flyby 2021

"Last year the Administration championed an Asteroid Mission as a next step. However, the mission was not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community before it was presented formally to Congress. Upon review, a majority of experts said that such a mission did not demonstrate sufficient technical applicability to an eventual Mars landing."

Keith's note: This is beyond hilarious. It is pathetic. Lamar Smith (upon the advice of Mike Griffin's former staff on both sides of the dais) did not like Constellation's cancellation so they immediately dismiss whatever this White House and NASA puts forward. They claim "a majority of experts" (who are they?) agree with them. So what do they do? They take a multi-millionaire's ever-changing Powerpoint presentation (with no cost estimates) that NASA is expected to pay for with additional money no one has identified, and hold a hearing with NASA specifically banned - and no contrary opinions allowed.

But wait: this Mars flyby concept is also "not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community" (their main complaint about the asteroid mission). But that doesn't stop the contradictory hypocrisy on the part of Lamar Smith, Frank Wolf et al. They just direct NASA to study it. It should be obvious that whatever NASA says will be unacceptable by this committee. But who cares?

Then you see Republican NASA Administrator-in-waiting Scott Pace pontificating about what a space policy should be i.e. a bigger picture with missions selected to implement the grand plan. In fact Pace is saying that he wants to see this specific mission happen and that a space policy should then be crafted after the fact to justify it. He's got his own ideas about space policy backward. Again, who cares?

Isn't that the problem NASA/Congress/White House has had for the past 30+ years? They keep changing their mind about what they want NASA to do - and complain about what it is doing - but then go off and do something new anyway. Then they change the rules to justify what they have already done. And then just as they change the rules (or some big problem erupts) someone changes what NASA should be doing and the idiotic cycle starts all over again. And this process is fueled by partisan hearings that are actually pre-staged puppet shows with everything scripted toward a desired partisan outcome.

You can get neck damage trying to watch things swing back and forth. Imagine trying to distill a cogent, long-term policy from all of this. It is clearly impossible. Yet all of these half-baked, ever-changing ideas absolutely require a long-term bipartisan, multi-administration commitment in order to happen.

Whiplash is no way to explore space. Small wonder other countries are nipping at our heels. We make it so easy for them to do.

- Dennis Tito's Congressional Infomercial - in 5 Tweets, earlier post
- The Band of Brothers Wants a Mars Flyby, earlier post

Hearing: Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?

27 Feb 2014 10:00am live webcast

- Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University Statement
- General Lester Lyles (ret.), Independent Aerospace Consultant and former Chairman of the Committee on "Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program" established by the National Academies Statement
- Mr. Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions and former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Statement
- Dr. Sandra Magnus, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Statement

- Rep. Lamar Smith Statement; Hearing on Mars 2021 Flyby Mission
- Statement from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson - Mars 2021 Flyby Hearing
- Statement by Rep. Steven Palazzo on Mars 2021 Flyby Hearing
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats Emphasize Need for Human Space Exploration Roadmap
- House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Examines Mars Flyby Mission
And oh yes

Statement from Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito on Feb. 27 "Mars Flyby 2021" Hearing

Ten Tough Days for NASA, Clay Anderson, Huffington Post

"But did we, America, learn and truly understand? As I discussed in my previous Huffington Post blog post, "Never Give Up, Never Surrender," some of us did, while others did not. Understand that these tragedies did not have to happen. But the lessons learned and the resultant technological growth would ultimately contribute to discoveries and opportunities benefiting all humankind. And that, I believe, should be the legacy of these brave men and women. We must continue to explore."

2014 BA3 Goldstone Radar Observations Planning

"2014 BA3 was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Survey (Arizona) on January 21, 2014. It has an absolute magnitude of 28.3 suggesting a diameter within a factor of two of only 7 meters, but nothing else is known about its physical properties. This object is one of the best candidates ever discovered for NASA's new Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission, so we will try to detect echoes at Goldstone to improve the asteroid's orbit and to characterize its physical properties. ... 2014 BA3 will approach within 0.0151 AU on January 26. This object is at about 20th magnitude so it is a difficult target for observers using optical telescopes. "

- Asteroid 2014 BA3, JPL Small Body Database Simulator
- NASA Asteroid Initiative

Clementine +20

Clementine - The Mission, Twenty Years Later, Paul Spudis

"In the twenty years following the end of the Apollo program, the lunar science community tried to interest NASA in sending a robotic orbiter to the Moon to map its shape, composition and other physical properties. Such a mission would not only document the processes and history of the Moon, but would also serve as an operational template for the exploration of other airless planetary objects through the collection of global remote sensing data and use of surface samples to provide ground truth."

Morpheus Flies Free Again

Morpheus Completes Third Free Flight Test at Kennedy Space Center (Video)

A Decade of the Vision for Space Exploration: An Alternative Retrospective, Paul Spudis

"Reflecting on the last decade of U.S. space accomplishment, it is apparent that the strategic direction of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) first outlined by President Bush on January 14, 2004 has dramatically transformed the civil space program of the United States. Instead of drifting aimlessly, as had been our wont, we are now poised to expand outward with activities undreamed of only a few years ago - ready to set sail into the Solar System with both humans and machines. It is important to revisit this decade of events to appreciate what (and who) is responsible for the developments that cemented this enviable level of space capability - the effort keeping us at the forefront of space development."

Going Beyond The Status Quo In Space, Dennis WIngo, Paul Spudis, Gordon Woodcock, earlier post

"The next step in our space program is the development of a true space faring civilization using the Moon as a stepping stone. Elements of such a system include a lunar spaceport, settlement, and industrial infrastructure to support the further economic development of the Solar System. Pursuing this goal requires a different way of thinking about space infrastructure and operations. Reducing operating cost is paramount. We must accept high-payoff new technologies and manage their risks until they are mature. But the payoff is huge: a new economic frontier in space."

Statement from the Coalition for Space Exploration: Frank Wolf's Letter to President Obama
 
"... policy decisions made in the next few years will determine whether the international space and science community supports a U.S.-led space exploration program for the next several decades or if they align with others. The Coalition for Space Exploration encourages the proposal to hold a conference early in the new year to develop a mission-oriented plan for a U.S.-led exploration program to send humans to Mars using the SLS and Orion systems, augmented by other systems and technologies contributed by our international partners."

Wolf Asks Obama to Hold White House Conference in 2014 on Return to Moon, Space Policy Online

"Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) may be retiring, but that's not till the end of next year.   Until then, he clearly plans to remain passionately involved in both civil and national security space policy as evidenced by two letters he sent today.  The one addressed to President Obama calls on the President to hold a White House conference early in 2014 to develop an international plan to return humans to the Moon within the next 10 years."

Letter from Frank Wolf To President Obama, Space Policy Online

41 Years Ago Today Humans Left The Moon

"41 years ago today, 14 December 1972, Lunar Module "Challenger" in lunar orbit before rendezvous with the Apollo 17 Command Module "America"."

Statement of NASA Spokesman David Weaver Regarding Commercial Space and Inspiration Mars

"NASA has had conversations with Inspiration Mars to learn about their efforts and will continue discussions with them to see how the agency might collaborate on mutually-beneficial activities that could complement NASA's human spaceflight, space technology and Mars exploration plans. Inspiration Mars' proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats, and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days. The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. However, we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop."

Millionaire revises plan for Mars flyby in 2018: Now it's up to NASA, NBC

"Tito initially envisioned the flyby as an effort primarily backed by private contributions, but the 90-day study determined that the mission had to be done with NASA hardware. "This is really a NASA mission," Taber MacCallum, Inspiration Mars' chief technology officer, told NBC News. "This is a mission we believe NASA should do."

Inspiration Mars pivots, seeks government support and backing, Space Politics

"Are you suggesting that the mission couldn't be undertaken without additional NASA funding?" asked Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the space subcommittee. "Right now, I don't see a lot of evidence that money is available," Tito responded."

Keith's note: In a media interview today Dennis Tito and Taber MacCallum said that they viewed the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" and that Congress and the White House would need to direct NASA to do this mission as part of their SLS program. Tito also said that there would be legislation submitted on their behalf soon but declined to say who the sponsor was. Tito and MacCallum also said that they had briefed the White House on the Inspiration Mars concept and that the White House was supportive. Administration sources contacted tonight note that it has been many months since Inspiration Mars briefed them and that the mission that they were briefed on was a wholly private venture that did not require NASA funds - certainly not a "NASA Mission". Administration sources add that it would be incorrect to state that Administration supports the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" requiring NASA funds or hardware.

- Inspiration Mars Foundation Chairman Dennis Tito testifies before House Subcommittee on Space
- Tito prepared statement
- Inspiration Mars Architecture Study Report Summary
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Subcommittee on Space Hearing - Commercial Space

Nov 20, 2013 10:00am

Panel I
Rep Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip

Panel II
Patricia Cooper - President, Satellite Industry Association
Stu Witt - CEO and General Manager, Mojave Air and Space Port
Dennis Tito - Chairman, Inspiration Mars Foundation Prepared statement

- Hearing Charter
- Watch live
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Recognizing Giant Leaps: Google Lunar XPRIZE Establishes Milestone Prizes, Alex Hall, Space.com

"Two years ago, XPRIZE began a dialogue with teams to better understand the challenges that they were facing and to determine what steps we might take to better nurture and support this prize ecosystem. As a result, we determined that we needed to find a way to recognize and support the teams that were making substantial technical progress toward the requirements of the competition."

Keith's note: All of the Google Lunar X Prize competitors really need money. By creating these smaller prizes that are easier to achieve, the competitors have a chance to get some much-needed funding to keep their doors open. Of course, if Chang'e 3 lands on the Moon and deploys its rover, the Google Lunar X Prize automatically reduces by a significant amount. Add in the fact that none of the GLXP competitors have exhibited actual flight hardware or raised the funds to build and launch their vehicles and the chances for pulling this off by the December 2015 deadline are really starting to fade. This effort tosses some cash their way but also allows GLXP to proclaim "winners". Whether this will actually improve the odds that the teams launch anything remains to be seen.

Keith's update: The rules used to say "The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013." Well, the prize decrease that would have resulted from a government-funded mission (e.g. Chang'e 3) has been removed. You can read the new rules here. Clearly the Google Lunar X Prize is quietly trying to get money to some of their teams much more easily - and sooner - and they are moving (or removing) the older goal posts so as to make it easier for teams to win these smaller prizes.

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, earlier post

NASA Selects Research Teams for New Virtual Institute

"NASA has selected nine research teams from seven states for a new institute that will bring researchers together in a collaborative virtual setting to focus on questions concerning space science and human space exploration. The teams participating in the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) will address scientific questions about the moon, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and their near space environments, in cooperation with international partners."

NASA, Harvard & TopCoder Partner to Develop a Secure Solar System Internet Protocol

"TopCoder, the world's largest professional development and design community, with NASA and the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science), today announced the launch of a series of innovation challenges that will develop foundational technological concepts for disruption tolerant deep space networking. NASA has made significant progress in developing Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocols that aide in deep space communication. DTN protocols are an approach to network architecture that seeks to address the potential for lack of continuous connectivity in deep space. It is meant to aid NASA in the exploration of the solar system by overcoming communication time delays caused by interplanetary distances, and the disruptions caused by planetary rotation, orbits and limited transmission power."

Keith's note: This sounds pretty cool builds upon the Interplanetary Internet work that NASA has engaged in over the past decade or so. You'd think that extending the Internet (so to speak) to allow interaction between other worlds and spacecraft traversing our solar system would be something that all of NASA's IT and Technology, and Innovation people would want to crow about - especially since this effort is geared to engage the public via crowd sourcing. In this wired world, this is something that almost everyone in the public can relate to. Indeed, utilized crowd sourced efforts and making the results widely known is something that the Open Government Initiative is supposed to be promoting.

This effort is being coordinated by the NASA Tournament Lab at TopCoder. No specific sponsoring office or organization at NASA is mentioned. TopCoder put out a press release last week. Alas, despite the obvious nexus of interest you'd expect, NASA has been totally silent:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (no mention)
- NASA Space Communications and Navigation (no mention - they also make no mention of LADEE's recent laser comms test)
NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Curiously, NASA PAO did promote NASA's Interplanetary Internet efforts last year when someone commanded Robonaut to do something on the ISS. A week prior to this recently announced Interplanetary Internet challenge NASA posted this:

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

"Now NASA has joined forces with the product development startup Marblar (www.marblar.com) for a pilot program allowing the public to crowd source product ideas for forty of NASA's patents. This initiative will allow Marblar's online community to use a portion of NASA's diverse portfolio of patented technologies as the basis of new product ideas."

Again, for the most part, NASA's Technology and Information organizations have been mostly mute:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued - just an online feature)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (posted a link)
- NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Add in the curious case of innovate.nasa.gov which is apparently now "under construction, but we will be re-launching soon" after being online for a year and doing absolutely nothing to warrant its existence (or expense), and you really have to wonder what NASA is planning to do with all this Technology money that is heading their way. If the agency cannot internally coordinate a simple mechanism to organize this technology stuff - and then share it with the public - then maybe that technology money belongs elsewhere.

NASA MSFC/Moon Express Space Act Agreement

NASA MSFC/Moon Express Space Act Agreement Annex

"This Annex shall be for the purpose of MSFC providing support to Moon Express, Inc. (MEl) in their efforts to design, develop, integrate, and test their Guidance Algorithms for a terrestrial lander. The MEl provided algorithms will be integrated into the existing Guidance, Navigation and Control (GN&C) Software on-board MSFC's Warm Gas Test Article (WGTA) and used to perform a hazard avoidance test series."

"Partner agrees to reimburse NASA an estimated cost of $31,500.00 for NASA to carry out its responsibilities under this Annex."

Robots and Parades

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

NASA Will Face Solomon's Choice in 2014, Dennis Wingo

"If a budget in the range of $16.6 billion is what happens NASA will have a major problem maintaining both the International Space Station (ISS) and the SLS/Orion Exploration program. Given that the funds are simply not going to be available to keep the ISS alive and functioning and to fully construct and operate the SLS/Orion system, something has to give. Are we going to have to kill one to insure the other's survival? That is the choice that that is presenting itself - a clear recipe for disaster as far as NASA's human space flight plans are concerned."

From B612 Foundation: "Since the government got shut down and NASA canceled the remainder of the asteroid workshop in Houston today and tomorrow, B612 decided to just go ahead and sponsor the meeting ourselves so the participants can still meet. Here is what we sent to the participants this morning:

Dear Asteroid Initiative Ideas Synthesis Workshop Attendees: To keep the asteroid initiative conversation moving forward, B612 is hosting an Asteroid Un Conference today Hilton Hotel @ NASA on 3000 Parkway from 2:30 pm to 6pm. Coffee and healthy snacks will be provided and other items can be purchased on your own dime. You can learn more about the unconference format here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference. Essentially discussions in small groups will be created by whatever the participants would like to propose, i.e. one big networking session."


Astronauts Practice Launching in NASA's New Orion Spacecraft, NASA

"Astronauts Rick Linnehan and Mike Foreman try out a prototype display and control system inside an Orion spacecraft mockup at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston during the first ascent and abort simulations for the program.

For the first time, NASA astronauts are practicing a launch into space aboard the agency's Orion spacecraft, and provided feedback on the new capsule's cockpit design."

Astronaut training resumes at undersea lab in the Florida Keys with 5-day mission, AP

"Starting Tuesday, five astronauts will spend five days living and working at the Aquarius Reef Base. While they're underwater, they'll be trying out an exercise device that could be used on the International Space Station and spacewalking tools."

Keith's note: NASA Astronauts living underwater - sound familiar? NASA's NEEMO used to do this. Not any more. NASA killed NEEMO. Now they have a stealthy low-key version they call "Space Environment Analog for Testing EVA Systems and Training (SEA TEST)". There is no mention of this activity at NASA HQ. JSC has a page up but no press release was ever issued. No mention of "NEEMO" is made - not even in photos that are shown from earlier NEEMO missions. Why is NASA being so shy about this activity? Is NASA embarrassed to admit that it killed NEEMO? Among the current visitors of the Aquarius Facility is legendary aquanaut Sylvia Earle. You'd think that some one at NASA would be paying attention. Think again.

- Aquarius Reef Base, main website
- Live streaming video

Even though NASA PAO is ignoring these activities you can follow tweets at @ReefBase, @Astro_Soichi, @AstroAcaba, @Astro_Andreas, @Asto_Kate7, and @Thom_astro

It's rocket science at Penn State's Applied Research Lab, Penn State News

MOA Between NASA JSC and Penn State for Collaboration on the Development and improvement of Reaction Control Engines

"NASA JSC and Penn State wish to collaborate on the further development of a JSC inhouse designed liquid oxygen (L02)lliquid methane (LCH4) reaction control engine (RCE) to characterize its performance over an expanded range of operating conditions... Penn State is seeking an RCE for their Lunar Lion vehicle as part of its participation in the Google Lunar X-Prize."

NASA Selects Top 96 Asteroid Initiative Ideas

"NASA has chosen 96 ideas it regards as most promising from more than 400 submitted in response to its June request for information (RFI) about protecting Earth from asteroids and finding an asteroid humans can explore."

- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale, earlier post

NASA Exploration Systems Division Quarterly Report #3 2013 (Video)

According to NASA "NASA's Orion, Space Launch System and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs continued to make progress towards sending humans beyond Earth's orbit during the past quarter." This video has lots of computer animations and video of how SLS and other systems are being designed and built.

LADEE - Back to the Moon

LADEE - Going Back to the Moon [Watch], NASA

"A model of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is seen in the foreground during a LADEE mission briefing at NASA Headquarters, Thursday, August 22, 2013 in Washington."

Marc's note: While the debate continues on how many launches have taken place at Wallops, we do know that this is the first to the moon. And along with the adjacent Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and Orbital launches from there, the Virginia space profile is increasing. You can follow the happenings in Virginia through our Twitter account Space Virginia.

NASA Releases New Imagery of Asteroid Mission [Watch], NASA

"NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid."

Marc's note: So while Congress refuses to fund the Asteroid Redirect Mission in the current budget process, NASA is pressing forward as if this mission is going to happen. You have to love their tenacity. However since Congress can't agree on a budget NASA is proceeding as it should under its existing mandate.

NASA Spacecraft Reactivated to Hunt for Asteroids, NASA

"A NASA spacecraft that discovered and characterized tens of thousands of asteroids throughout the solar system before being placed in hibernation will return to service for three more years starting in September, assisting the agency in its effort to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, as well as those suitable for asteroid exploration missions.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will be revived next month with the goal of discovering and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs), space rocks that can be found orbiting within 45 million kilometers (28 million miles) from Earth's path around the sun. NASA anticipates WISE will use its 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope and infrared cameras to discover about 150 previously unknown NEOs and characterize the size, albedo and thermal properties of about 2,000 others -- including some of which could be candidates for the agency's recently announced asteroid initiative."

NASA Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop, NASA

"The purpose of this conference is to publicly examine and synthesize highly rated responses to the NASA's Asteroid Initiative RFI. Findings will be developed and provided as inputs to NASA's planning activities.

Dates: (12 p.m. CDT) Monday, September 30, 2013-(5 p.m. CDT) Wednesday October 2, 2013

Address: Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, TX 77058."

"NASA and 11 other ISECG member agencies have released an update to the 2011 Global Exploration Roadmap. The updated document reflects ongoing dialog and continued preparation for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit - beginning with the International Space Station (ISS) and expanding human presence throughout the solar system, leading to human missions to the surface of Mars. The GER highlights the critical role of the International Space Station in preparing for deep-space exploration.

It also demonstrates that the global community is working together on a space exploration strategic plan, with robotic and human missions to destinations that include near-Earth asteroids, the Moon and Mars. NASA plans to host a workshop in early 2014 to engage the space community in discussions about the updates to the Global Exploration Roadmap. Comments are welcome! NASA is interested in obtaining feedback on the Global Exploration Roadmap. You are invited to submit your comments to: HQ-GER-Comments@mail.nasa.gov" Download the Global Exploration Roadmap (5.8 MB PDF)

Keith's note: Page 8: "Observation: In order to build a sustainable human space exploration endeavour that lasts decades, agency leaders should maintain a focus on delivering value to the public." Alas, Charlie Bolden still cannot explain to the public why NASA needs to go grab an asteroid and put it into lunar orbit and then have people visit it. How can people see the value of this mission if no one at NASA can explain why it needs to be done?

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?, The Space Review

"In a speech the following day at the conference, [Mike] Griffin said that X-vehicles in general can do several key things essential in aerospace development, including proving out technologies before getting locked into vehicle configurations, determining what the requirements should be for future vehicles, and demonstrating systems engineering. He lamented, though, the lack of X-vehicle development today. "It is a lapse of government science and technology policy at the very top levels that has caused our aggressive pursuit of X-vehicle programs to lapse," he said. "I would do anything to bring it back to the forefront of public thinking."

Keith's note: Gee, Mike ... who was it that killed everything that Craig Steidle wanted to do at NASA? There was certainly a whole lot of x-vehicle type thinking in Steidle's plan. And Steidle's plan was killed so as to create your government-designed "Apollo on Steroids" (your exact words)? Am I missing something? Pot-Kettle-Black, Mike?

NASA's mission improbable, Washington Post

"It is really an elegant bringing together of our exciting human spaceflight plan, scientific interest, being able to protect our planet, and utilizing the technology we had invested in and were already investing in," said Lori Garver, NASA deputy administrator. But the mission is viewed skeptically by many in the space community. At a July gathering of engineers and scientists at the National Academy of Sciences, veteran engineer Gentry Lee expressed doubt that the complicated elements of the mission could come together by 2021, and said the many uncertainties would boost the costs. "I'm trying very, very hard to look at the positive side of this, or what I would call the possible positive side," he said. "It's basically wishful thinking in a lot of ways - that there's a suitable target, that you can find it in time, that you can actually catch it if you go there and bring it back," said Al Harris, a retired NASA planetary scientist who specializes in asteroids. "Of course there's always luck. But how much money do you want to spend on a chance discovery that might have a very low probability?" said Mark Sykes, a planetary scientist who chairs a NASA advisory group on asteroids."

- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale (Revised), earlier post
- Asteroid Redirect Mission Full-Court Press Continues, earlier post

NASA Selects Innovative Technology Proposals for Suborbital Flights, NASA

"NASA has selected for possible flight demonstration 10 proposals from six U.S. states for reusable, suborbital technology payloads and vehicle capability enhancements with the potential to revolutionize future space missions.

After the concepts are developed, NASA may choose to fly the technologies to the edge of space and back on U.S. commercial suborbital vehicles and platforms. These types of flights provide opportunities for testing in microgravity before the vehicles are sent into the harsh environment of space."

Leading the end of one space era, and the beginning of another, Washington Post

"And this is subtle. I have this discussion with my science friends all the time and those who are purist. The president said by 2025 we should send humans to an asteroid. What he meant was, you should send humans to somewhere between Mars and Saturn, because that's where the dominant asteroids in the asteroid belt are. But no, he didn't say that. He said: humans to an asteroid."

Keith's note: Unless he is misquoted, Bolden seems to be a little confused. Bolden also neglects to mention that there is a big difference between sending humans to regions of the solar system where asteroids are located as a stepping stone toward sending humans to Mars -- and bringing the asteroid to Earth so we do not have to go as far to visit it. This defeats the original intent of sending humans greater distances during longer missions and replaces that intent with placing a small rock in orbit around a place we've already visited. We're really not much closer to sending humans to Mars - and the President never said "bring the asteroid back to humans" either. That idea bubbled up on the 9th floor and at OSTP.

To be blunt, there is no compelling rationale for the Asteroid Redirect & Return Mission (ARRM). There never has been. Based on the way that Charlie Bolden continually stumbles through his conflicting explanation of what the mission is and is not, there never will be a clear reason why it needs to be done.

A Year of Curiosity on Mars [Watch], NASA

"Curiosity Rover team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., re-live the dramatic Aug. 6, 2012 landing and the mission's achievements to date in an event aired on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Marc's note: In case you missed JPL's Curiosity birthday special today, here it is.

NASA Curiosity Rover Approaches First Anniversary on Mars, NASA

"NASA's Curiosity rover will mark one year on Mars next week and has already achieved its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life. The mobile laboratory also is guiding designs for future planetary missions.

... Curiosity team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.,will share remembrances about the dramatic landing night and the mission overall in an event that will air on NASA Television and the agency's website from10:45 a.m. to noon EDT (7:45 to 9 a.m. PDT) on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Immediately following that program, from noon to 1:30 p.m., NASA TV will carry a live public event from NASA Headquarters in Washington. That event will feature NASA officials and crew members aboard the International Space Station as they observe the rover anniversary and discuss how its activities and other robotic projects are helping prepare for a human mission to Mars and an asteroid. Social media followers may submit questions on Twitter and Google+ in advance and during the event using the hashtag #askNASA."

Artist Concept: NASA Space Launch System and Orion Spacecraft, SpaceRef

"NASA has releases new artist concepts of the SLS and Orion spacecraft including being stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

NASA's Space Launch System Completes Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA has achieved a major milestone in its effort to build the nation's next heavy-lift launch vehicle by successfully completing the Space Launch System (SLS) preliminary design review.

Senior experts and engineers from across the agency concluded Wednesday the design, associated production and ground support plans for the SLS heavy-lift rocket are technically and programmatically capable of fulfilling the launch vehicle's mission objectives. NASA is developing the SLS and Orion spacecraft to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, with the flexibility to launch spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, including to an asteroid and Mars."

NASA Completes First Internal Review of Concepts for Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA

"In preparation for fiscal year 2014, a mission formulation review on Tuesday brought together NASA leaders from across the country to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the asteroid mission. The review assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission.

"At this meeting, we engaged in the critically important work of examining initial concepts to meet the goal of asteroid retrieval and exploration," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who chaired the review at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "The agency's science, technology and human exploration teams are working together to better understand near Earth asteroids, including ones potentially hazardous to our planet; demonstrate new technologies; and to send humans farther from home than ever before. I was extremely proud of the teams and the progress they have made so far. I look forward to integrating the inputs as we develop the mission concept further."

NASA X-ray Telescope Observes Planet Passing in Front of its Star for the First Time, NASA

"For the first time since exoplanets, or planets around stars other than the sun, were discovered almost 20 years ago, X-ray observations have detected an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star.

An advantageous alignment of a planet and its parent star in the system HD 189733, which is 63 light-years from Earth, enabled NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM Newton Observatory to observe a dip in X-ray intensity as the planet transited the star."

NASA and Korean Space Agency Discuss Space Cooperation, NASA

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Seung Jo Kim, met in Washington Monday to discuss collaboration in aeronautics research and space exploration, including KARI's robotic lunar mission and NASA's asteroid initiative.

Bolden and Kim also discussed NASA's plans for a new asteroid initiative, previously announced in President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. Kim welcomed the chance to discuss opportunities for collaboration."

NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Meeting 29-31 Jul 2013, NASA

"The meeting will be open to the public up to the capacity of the room. This meeting is also available telephonically and by WebEx."

--Subcommittee Reports
--Program Status
--2013 Science Plan

NASA Sees Enthusiastic Response to Asteroid Call for Ideas, NASA

"NASA has received more than 400 responses to its request for information (RFI) on the agency's asteroid initiative, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Friday.

"Under our plan, we're increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying," said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. "The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects."

Marc's updated note: Members of Congress have been very vocal about their desire that NASA should NOT proceed with the Asteroid Initiative, specifically the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Until Congress is reassured about the merits of the mission, it will be difficult for NASA to proceed.

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Initial Recovery Tests, NASA

"The initial test began on Thursday, July 18, 2013, with RW4. In response to test commands, wheel 4 did not spin in the positive (or clockwise) direction but the wheel did spin in the negative (or counterclockwise) direction. Wheel 4 is thought to be the more seriously damaged of the two.

On Monday, July 22, 2013, the team proceeded with a test of RW2. Wheel 2 responded to test commands and spun in both directions."

Marc's note: It looks like there has been some partial success however there's still a long way to go before Kepler can be recovered to operate as it should.

Tenth Parachute Test for NASA's Orion Adds 10,000 Feet of Success [Watch], NASA

"A complicated, high-altitude test Wednesday demonstrated NASA's new Orion spacecraft could land safely even if one of its parachutes failed.

The 10th in a series of evaluations to check out the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle's parachute system dropped the test capsule from a C-17 aircraft at its highest altitude yet, 35,000 feet above the Arizona desert. One of three massive main parachutes was cut away early on purpose, leaving the spacecraft to land with only two. The test at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground was the highest-altitude test of a human spacecraft parachute since NASA's Apollo Program."

Marc's note: Unfortunately the broadcast quality was subpar and barely worth watching.

Draft Findings: 9th Meeting of the NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group, NASA

"(2) Draft Finding - Travel Restrictions

The current NASA and government restrictions on travel and attendance at workshops, conferences, science team meetings, etc. is severely impacting the ability of the planetary science and engineering communities to conduct their work. The increased level of oversight forces a disproportionate amount of time and effort by agency personnel to comply with the necessary waivers and forms to attend such functions at the expense of focusing on NASA goals and objectives. In addition, these travel restrictions undermine the effective planning of domestic and international meetings by suppressing attendance in a manner that is difficult to predict, limiting vital interactions of individuals working on projects and missions relevant to NASA interests.

(9) DRAFT FINDING - Relevance of ARRM to Planetary Defense

Given the size of the ARRM target (< 10m), ARRM has limited relevance to planetary defense. Retrieving a NEO this small only tangentially benefits planetary defense, as the stated target body may not be representative of the larger, hazardous bodies."

Keith's note: Although this document has been widely circulated, these are DRAFT findings and are subject to change. A final version will be issued next week and will replace this draft version.

Marc's note: I've only highlighted two of the findings here but there are several others worth reading.

Keith's note: Care to guess where this donation box is? Note the diversity of currencies. This diversity is quite normal for this location. Click on image to enlarge.

2013 NASA Advanced Technology Phase I Concepts Selected For Study, NASA

"NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact.

The selected proposals include a wide range of imaginative concepts, including 3-D printing of biomaterials, such as arrays of cells; using galactic rays to map the insides of asteroids; and an "eternal flight" platform that could hover in Earth's atmosphere, potentially providing better imaging, Wi-Fi, power generation, and other applications."

Orion's Heat Shield Takes Shape [Watch], NASA

"Technicians at Textron Defense Systems near Boston are applying Avcoat ablator material to some 330,000 cells of a honeycomb on the heat shield of NASA's new Orion spacecraft. To ensure that each cell is filled correctly, they are individually X-rayed and a robot is used to machine the material, sanding off fractions of an inch so that the heat shield matches Orion's precise plans."

Asteroid retrieval is costly and uninspiring, Lamar Smith Op-ed, The Hill

"The proposed asteroid retrieval mission would contribute very little to planetary defense efforts. The size of the target asteroid for this mission is only 7-10 meters in diameter, too small to cause any damage to Earth. Any insight gained by such a mission would have little relevance to protecting against larger "city-killer" asteroids. Congress directed NASA in 2005 to identify and track 90 percent of asteroids larger than 140 meters by 2020. Asteroids of this size are ones that could cause significant damage, and NASA still has work to do to accomplish this goal. Asteroids that are 7-10 meters simply disintegrate in our atmosphere."

Russian Meteor's Origin and Size Pinned Down, Space.com

"The asteroid was about 17 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons," Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement. "It struck Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles above Earth's surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT." That's 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II. The Russian fireball likely produced the most powerful such space rock blast since a 130-foot (40 m) object exploded over Siberia in 1908, flattening 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest.

NASA Satellite Provides First View of the Solar System's Tail [Watch], NASA

"Like a comet, the solar system has a tail. NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has for the first time mapped out the structure of this tail, which is shaped like a four-leaf clover. Scientists describe the tail, called the heliotail, based on the first three years of IBEX imagery in a paper published in the July 10 edition of the Astrophysical Journal."


Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover, NASA

- Report of the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (PDF), NASA

- Appendices (PDF)

- Audio of today's teleconference (MP3)

"The Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) has outlined a mission concept for a science-focused, highly mobile rover to explore and investigate in detail a site on Mars that likely was once habitable. The SDT-preferred mission concept employs new in situ scientific instrumentation in order to seek signs of past life (had it been there), select and store a compelling suite of samples in a returnable cache, and demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration of Mars. The mission concept fully addresses the requirements specified by NASA in the SDT charter while also ensuring alignment with the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey for Planetary Science (Visions and Voyages, 2011).

Key features of the integrated science mission concept include:
- Broad and rigorous in situ science, including seeking biosignatures
- Acquiring a diverse set of samples intended to address a range of Mars science questions and storing them in a cache for potential return to Earth at a later time
- Improved landing technology to allow unprecedented access to scientifically compelling geological sites
- Collection of critical data needed to plan for eventual human missions to the martian surface
- Maximizing engineering heritage from NASA's successful Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission to constrain costs
"

NASA Discusses Mars 2020 Plans in July 9 Teleconference, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 9 to provide details about a report that will help define science objectives for the agency's next Mars rover.

The report, prepared by the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) NASA appointed in January, is an early, crucial step in developing the mission and the rover's prime science objectives."

Significant Titan Flyby Happening on July 10th, NASA

"For the Radar instrument, one of the most significant Titan fly-bys of the extended Solstice mission occurs July 10. Measurements from this flyby, combined with data from the previous flyby, will allow scientists to produce stereo images of lakes.

Inbound, the imaging science subsystem (ISS) will acquire a mosaic of high northern latitudes on Titan's leading hemisphere, approaching northern summer. This area of Titan's surface has only recently been well observed and each new flyby adds significantly to our data set."

Some Hope for Kepler

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Preparing for Recovery, NASA

"The engineering team has devised initial tests for the recovery attempt and is checking them on the spacecraft test bed at the Ball Aerospace facility in Boulder, Colo. The team anticipates that exploratory commanding of Kepler's reaction wheels will commence mid-to-late July. The Kepler spacecraft will remain in PRS until and during the tests.

Later this month, an update to the data processing pipeline software will be deployed. Called SOC 9.1, this enhancement has been underway for several months and is in the final stages of verification and validation. This software release provides additional refinements to better tease out small planet signatures from the four years of Kepler data. It will also decrease the frequency of false positives."

Related: NASA To Attempt To Revive Stricken Kepler Telescope in July, Space News

"I think the general feeling is that the odds are not good. We might see a wheel spin, but I suspect that it will not spin freely, that there will be noise on it -- vibrations -- which would not make the science happy," Charlie Sobeck, deputy project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center, told SpaceNews."

Marc's note: According to the Space News article they will work on wheel 4 first and then 2. Let's hope they beat the odds and some remote engineering does the trick.

NASA Seeks Information on Commercial Robotic Lunar Lander Capabilities

"NASA Tuesday issued a Request for Information (RFI) that will help agency officials better understand current plans in the U.S. commercial space industry for a robotic lunar landing capability. The RFI will assist NASA in assessing U.S. industry's interest in partnerships to develop a robotic lander that could enable commercial and agency missions.

NASA does not envision an exchange of funds between the agency and any industry partners. Potential NASA contributions to a partnership could include the technical expertise of NASA staff on integrated teams, providing NASA center test facilities at no cost, or contributing hardware or software for commercial lander development and testing."

Related:
- NASA RFI on Potential Partnerships for Industry-Led Development of Robotic Lunar Landers
- Space Development: Going Everywhere and Nowhere

Marc's note: No doubt commercial entities will be intrigued to have access to NASA expertise etc. but at what cost? They have to think about their business plan, intellectual property (IP) etc. What does NASA get out of it? There's no exchange of funds and there's definitely an IP issue to consider. How will Congress react? Is this a possible model for private/public commercial exploration of the moon?

Comet ISON Brings Holiday Fireworks [Watch], NASA

"This July Fourth, the solar system is showing off some fireworks of its own. Superficially resembling a skyrocket, comet ISON is hurtling toward the sun presently at a whopping 48,000 mph.

Its swift motion is captured in this time-lapse movie made from a sequence of pictures taken May 8, 2013, by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. At the time the images were taken, the comet was 403 million miles from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
The movie shows a sequence of Hubble observations taken over a 43-minute span and compresses this into just five seconds. The comet travels 34,000 miles in this brief video, or 7 percent of the distance between Earth and the moon. The deep-space visitor streaks silently against the background stars.
"

NASA Tests Game Changing Composite Cryogenic Fuel Tank [Watch] NASA Marshall

"NASA recently completed a major space technology development milestone by successfully testing a pressurized, large cryogenic propellant tank made of composite materials. The composite tank will enable the next generation of rockets and spacecraft needed for space exploration.

... "These successful tests mark an important milestone on the path to demonstrating the composite cryogenic tanks needed to accomplish our next generation of deep space missions," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This investment in game changing space technology will help enable NASA's exploration of deep space while directly benefiting American industrial capability in the manufacturing and use of composites."

... "The tank manufacturing process represents a number of industry breakthroughs, including automated fiber placement of oven-cured materials, fiber placement of an all-composite tank wall design that is leak-tight and a tooling approach that eliminates heavy-joints," said Dan Rivera, the Boeing cryogenic tank program manager at Marshall."

Voyagers in the Heliosheath [Download Larger Version], NASA

"This artist's concept shows NASA's two Voyager spacecraft exploring a turbulent region of space known as the heliosheath, the outer shell of the bubble of charged particles around our sun. After more than 35 years of travel, the two Voyager spacecraft will soon reach interstellar space, which is the space between stars."


NASA Launches Satellite to Study How Sun's Atmosphere is Energized [Watch],NASA

The IRIS launch was successful after a 13-minute ride into orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket. The launch was at 7:27:44 p.m. PDT. Although there were a few tense moments at launch time with the fins, the problem was quickly resolved. A loss signal due to a problem on the DC 8 plane was also experienced but NASA's in orbit TDRS satellite picked up telemetry and commands were sent to IRIS successful. At this time everything looks nominal.

"NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn reports that the mission team has made initial contact with the IRIS spacecraft through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and received good data in return. The telescope is right on track and its solar arrays are deploying. "We've got a very happy spacecraft on orbit and a thrilled launch team on the ground," Dunn said."

NASA's IRIS mission will focus a precise telescope on the sun to find out how energy moves and changes from the surface to the corona.

NASA Google+ Hangout Answering Questions about the Asteroid RFI [Watch], NASA

"NASA invites all interested parties to participate in a Google+ Hangout on June 27 at 2 p.m. EDT. During the session, NASA experts will answer your questions about the recently released Asteroid Initiative Request for Information (RFI)."

The Space Frontier Foundation Announces 2013's NewSpace Business Plan Competition Prizes, SpaceRef Business

'With $135,000 in prizes, more industry support than ever before, and a new location and date, the Space Frontier Foundation today announced the details of the largest, richest and most exciting NewSpace Business Plan Competition to date.

- $100,000 Grand prize sponsored by NASA
- $25,000 2nd prize sponsored by ATK
- $5,000 3rd prize sponsored by NASA
- $5,000 Market Sector prize sponsored by ATK'

Marc's note: An excellent opportunity for a start-up to get some initial funding.


NASA's Voyager 1 Explores Final Frontier of Our 'Solar Bubble', NASA JPL

"Data from Voyager 1, now more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the sun, suggest the spacecraft is closer to becoming the first human-made object to reach interstellar space."

Related (Previous):
- Voyager 1 Has Left Our Solar System
- Has Voyager 1 Left The Solar System?

PayPal Galactic Initiative to Tackle Payments in Space, Paypal Forward

"The time has now come for us to start planning for the future; a future where we aren't just talking about global payments. Today, we are expanding our vision off Earth into space.

What we once deemed to be science fiction has become a reality. Space travel is opening up for "the rest of us" thanks to Virgin Galactic, Space X and a host of other space tourism programs including the Space Hotel that hopes to be in orbit by 2016. The enabling infrastructure pieces are starting to come together, and as we start planning to inhabit other planets, the practical realities of life still need to be addressed."

Marc's update: PayPal Launches PayPal Galactic but We're Not Sure Why [Watch], SpaceRef

"In what can only be described as a bizarre news conference today, PayPal President David Marcus introduced PayPal Galactic. What is PayPal Galactic? According to Marcus, it's a visionary program being spearheaded by PayPal to bring together the leaders in the space industry to work on the "big questions" related to the commercialization of space."

Bacteria Sent Into Space Behave in Mysterious Ways, NASA

"Colonies of bacteria grown aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis behaved in ways never before observed on Earth, according to a new NASA-funded study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. Recent findings provide important evidence of spaceflight's effect on the behavior of bacterial communities, and represent a key step toward understanding and mitigating the risk these bacteria may pose to astronauts during long-term space missions.

The research team, led by Rensselaer faculty member Cynthia Collins, sent the experiment into orbit aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis missions STS-132 on May 16, 2010 and STS-135 on July 8, 2011. Samples of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured for three days in artificial urine. The space-grown communities of bacteria, called biofilms, formed a "column-and-canopy" structure not previously observed on Earth. Additionally, biofilms grown during spaceflight had a greater number of live cells, more biomass, and were thicker than control biofilms grown under normal gravity conditions."

3D Systems and Planetary Resources Announce Investment and Collaboration, SpaceRef Business

"3D Systems and Planetary Resources, Inc. today announced that 3D Systems has joined Planetary Resources' core group of investors and will be a collaborative partner in assisting Planetary Resources to develop and manufacture components of its ARKYD Series of spacecraft using its advanced 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions."

"We are excited to work very closely with Planetary Resources' engineering team to use advanced 3D printing and manufacturing technologies to increase functionality while decreasing the cost of their ARKYD spacecraft," said Avi Reichental, Chief Executive Officer, 3D Systems. "In success, we will create the smartphone of spacecraft and transform what has been an old-style, labor-intensive process, into something very scalable and affordable that will democratize access to space, the data collected from space and off-Earth resources for scientists and the public. We are delighted to join the Planetary Resources team."

Marc's note: This is a good news for Planetary Resources. They get an undisclosed investment and collaboration with an industry leader.

Joan A. Singer Named Manager of Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at NASA's Marshall Center, NASA

"Joan A. "Jody" Singer, a native of Hartselle, Ala., has been named manager of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

In her new position, Singer is responsible for overall management and direction of the office, including an annual budget of $108 million and a combined workforce of more than 500 civil servants and contractors. She oversees the work of the Marshall Center in the areas of human exploration projects and tasks; flight mission programs and projects; and International Space Station hardware integration and operations. The office also is tasked with creating and maintaining value-added partnerships with other government agencies and international and commercial partners that will help achieve NASA's vision. "

Space Station Live: Women in Science and Spaceflight [Watch], NASA

"Dr. Camille Wardrop Alleyne, Assistant ISS Program Scientist, joins NASA Public Affairs Officer Josh Byerly in the International Space Station Flight Control Room for a discussion of women in science and spaceflight. Alleyne also provides an overview of some of her favorite experiments taking place aboard the orbiting laboratory."


Marc's note: Although scheduled for launch this December, the Russian Nauka (FGB-2) module, also known as the Multi-Purpose Module (MLM), will most likely fly in early 2014. It will replace the PIRS module which will be de-orbited.

With the addition of the Nauka (meaning science) module, yet another piece of the global orbiting laboratory will be in place. But what happens beyond 2020. While some ISS member nations have expressed an interest in using the station beyond 2020, other's are reluctant to consider it, yet.

Perhaps this is an opportunity to expand the membership of the ISS community to include other nations and commercial customers. By that time SpaceX, Boeing or Sierra Nevada will have commercial crew vehicles already flying to the ISS on government contracts. How about letting them send private astronauts working for commercial interests to use this one of a kind laboratory? In this way the ISS can be transitioned from a government sponsored entity to a public private endeavour potentially defraying some costs otherwise paid by the public. After all, the space station is there, it cost a lot, why not keep using it?

Space Exploration Dollars Dwarf Ocean Spending, National Geographic

"In fiscal year 2013 NASA's annual exploration budget was roughly $3.8 billion. That same year, total funding for everything NOAA does--fishery management, weather and climate forecasting, ocean research and management, among many other programs--was about $5 billion, and NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research received just $23.7 million. Something is wrong with this picture. Space travel is certainly expensive. But as Cameron proved with his dive that cost approximately $8 million, deep-sea exploration is pricey as well. And that's not the only similarity between space and ocean travel: Both are dark, cold, and completely inhospitable to human life. ... This imbalance in pop culture is illustrative of what plays out in real life. We rejoiced along with the NASA mission-control room when the Mars rover landed on the red planet late last year. One particularly exuberant scientist, known as "Mohawk Guy" for his audacious hairdo, became a minor celebrity and even fielded his share of spontaneous marriage proposals. But when Cameron bottomed out in the Challenger Deep more than 36,000 feet below the surface of the sea, it was met with resounding indifference from all but the dorkiest of ocean nerds such as myself."

Sylvia Earle: Exploring the World's Oceans, Ensia

"We understand why it's important to reach for the stars, to look at ourselves in perspective of the universe, ask big questions such as where did we come from, how is it that we're here in this blue speck in space, and where are we going? And we've devoted a great amount of time and resources to moving forward, but meanwhile we've neglected understanding how this part of the solar system - our home - our life support system - how this really functions."

NASA and Italian Space Agency Sign Agreement on Exploration of Mercury, NASA

"At a meeting in Rome Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Enrico Saggese signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the European Space Agency- (ESA) led BepiColombo mission to Mercury, strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation between NASA and ASI in planetary exploration."

ARKYD: A Space Telescope for Everyone, Planetary Resources

Marc's note: After appearing to stall late last week, the Planetary Resources Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million for the E/PO ARKYD telescope has achieved its initial goal and was pushed over the top overnight.

Now with 10 days left they will try and reach their stretch goal of $2 million which they'll "invest the additional funds to enhance the ARKYD space telescope technology to enable it to search for alien planets!"

Moon, Mars, or Asteroids, Which is the Best Destination for Solar System Development?, Dennis Wingo

"The Moon!, no Mars!, no Asteroids! Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century and in the NASA, space advocacy, and commercial space worlds one of these three destinations are being touted (largely to the exclusion of others) for their value to science, human exploration, and economic development, but which one of them is the most valuable, the most deserving, of our attention?

This argument is taking place today in the vacuum of space policy that we currently live in without any unifying principles or policy to inform our decisions. Without a guiding policy and sense of purpose that encompasses more than narrow interests and singular destinations it is exceedingly likely that the human exploration and development of the solar system will continue to be an expensive and futile exercise. We must develop a firm moral, technological, and fiscal foundation for this outward move that will attract capital investment, spur technology development, and encourage innovation in a manner that people can understand, believe in, and thus financially support."


Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover, NASA JPL

"A billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail.

The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route."

Marc's update: It seems folks at JSC can't access NASA's own the Billion-Pixel View of Mars web page due to an automated program which has deemed the page "non-job related" viewing and is blocking access to. Now there's an algorithm that needs updating.

NASA's Space Launch System Program Kicks Off Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA is beginning a preliminary design review for its Space Launch System (SLS). This major program assessment will allow development of the agency's new heavy-lift rocket to move from concept to initial design.

The preliminary design review process includes meticulous, detailed analyses of the entire launch vehicle. Representatives from NASA, its contractor partners and experts from across the aerospace industry validate elements of the rocket to ensure they can be safely and successfully integrated.

... We are on track and meeting all the milestones necessary to fly in 2017."

Draft House NASA Authorization Bill Would Create 6-Year Term for NASA Administrator, No Funds for ARM, Space Policy Online

"The draft NASA Authorization Act of 2013 penned by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee would make the NASA Administrator a 6-year term appointment and authorize no funds for the proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM). A hearing on the draft bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

- Authorizes $16,825,200,000, which is "consistent with the Budget Control Act and FY2013 appropriations." If Congress replaces or repeals the Budget Control Act (which created the sequester) then funding would be added for the International Space Station (ISS), Space Launch System (SLS), and Commercial Crew.

Human Spaceflight - Makes clear that missions to lunar orbit, the surface of the Moon, and Mars are NASA's human spaceflight goals.

- No funding for the Asteroid Rendezvous Mission [alternately called the Asteroid Return Mission or Asteroid Retrieval Mission]
- NASA to study feasibility of extending ISS beyond 2020
- OSTP to lead a strategic plan for ISS utilization by "all science agencies"
- Continued commitment to SLS/Orion; reiterates that Orion is a backup to commercial crew for ISS
"

Marc's note: This is a draft only. NASA is moving forward with the Asteroid Initiative at the direction of the White House. The final bill will assuredly look different.

NASA Announces Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA

"NASA announced Tuesday a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. The challenge is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA's recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it."

"NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA's goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop."

- Statement by Ed Lu - CEO, B612 Foundation

Live on SpaceRef Business - NASA's Asteroid Initiative Industry & Partner Day

Event: NASA's Asteroid Initiative Industry & Partner Day
Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. EDT

This morning "NASA will host an event in which experts will provide details about NASA's asteroid initiative, including the observation campaign, the orbital tracking, robotic components, the human elements, and enhanced focus on planetary defense. We will describe our upcoming planning timeline and clearly identify opportunities and processes for providing input into our planning. During this public forum, NASA will also release a Request for Information (RFI) to seek new ideas for mission elements and describe the process for submitting your ideas to NASA so that NASA teams may consider your innovative solutions and/or participation."

Marc's note: We'll be broadcasting this event on SpaceRef Business starting at 9:30 with video feed courtesy NASA. Some in Congress would like to see the Asteroid initiative shelved. This is your chance to see what NASA has planned and how industry will be involved. As well, tomorrow is the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 hearing of the Subcommittee on Space. This should be an interesting few days.

- NASA Asteroid Inititiave Request for Information

- Video: NASA Asteroid Redirect Initiative

Presentations:

- Deputy Administrator Lori Garver (6 MB PDF)
- Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot (800 KB PDF)
- Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik (2.5 MB PDF)
- Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier (2.5 MB PDF)
- Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld (2.5 MB PDF)
- Jason Kessler, Office of the Chief Technologist (1.9 MB PDF)

John Kelly: In space, Chinese are still far behind, Florida Today

"But, don't let yourself get caught up in the idea that the Chinese are somehow gaining ground and soon to pass the United States, Russia or their partners in the International Space Station project. Also, don't get too concerned that the Chinese have their own system to launch an astronaut crew to space and the U.S. does not.

The Chinese achievements are interesting to watch, but they're decades behind veteran space-faring nations like the U.S. and Russia. Their flight is not to some sprawling orbiting laboratory like the ISS. Rather, they docked their 60s-era Shenzou spacecraft to a tiny, one-module space station that is a little over one-tenth of the size of the U.S. Skylab and Russian Salyut stations of decades past."

Mars'c note: The Chinese are definitely behind but those supposed "60's era Shenzhou" aren't using 60's era computers. I think Mr. Kelly went a little too far to make his point. One of those layered questions that still remains to be answered is, though some would argue that it has already been answered, will China be an international exploration partner for the moon and Mars going forward? Or go it alone?

Marc's update: Paul Spudis offers a counterpoint. While I don't agree with all of Paul's points he does offer some thoughts worth considering.

"It appears Kelly wants us to reach out and cooperate with the Chinese in space, even though they have not shown any particular desire for such a path. Kelly, the geopolitical sophisticate, seems to think that we should woo China with promises of space cooperation, like we won the hearts of the Russians. Yes, the Soviets were our one-time rivals, but I seem to recall that aside from one public relations "détente" mission in the 1970s (Apollo-Soyuz), real cooperation with Russia in space began after the fall of communism there in the early 1990s."

Women in Space Part One, Female Firsts in Flight for Space Exploration and Research, NASA Blog - A Lab Aloft (International Space Station Research)

"In today's A Lab Aloft, guest blogger Liz Warren, Ph.D., recalls the inspirational contributions and strides made by women in space exploration and International Space Station research.

This month we celebrate the anniversaries of three "firsts" for female space explorers. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space. Then on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became America's first woman in space, followed by Liu Yang as China's first woman in space on June 16, 2012. Though their flight anniversaries are not in June, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first European woman in space: Helen Sharman in 1991; the first Canadian woman: Roberta Bondar in 1992; and the first Japanese woman: Chiaki Mukai in 1994."

Marc's note:Well worth reading.

NASA Invites Media to View Space Launch System Progress, NASA

"NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier and other agency officials will debut a new machine for manufacturing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and check on development progress with the heavy-lift rocket at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans Friday, June 21.

NASA is inviting media representatives to attend a 9:15 a.m. CDT ribbon-cutting ceremony for the vertical weld center, where friction-stir weld tooling will be used to assemble the SLS core stage, then join officials on a tour of the SLS assembly area and work in support of NASA's Orion spacecraft."

NASA Selects Next Generation of Space Explorers [Watch], NASA

"After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.

Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle."

- NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday via a Google+ Hangout.

Marc's note: Call me skeptical, but perhaps some of these astronauts will make a fly-by of Mars or to its moons, but to land, I don't see that in the next 20 years with the current political situation. If a private-public attempt was made, say SpaceX teaming up with NASA, then maybe. And while there's ongoing "big picture" work for an international effort, until a decision is made by a President that it will happen and Congress buys into, it's just a dream.

New Horizons Team Sticking to Original Flight Plan at Pluto, JHUAPL

"Unless significant new hazards are found, expect NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to stay on its original course past Pluto and its moons, after mission managers concluded that the danger posed by dust and debris in the Pluto system is less than they once feared."


Commercial Partners Working to Launch U.S. Astronauts from Space Coast, NASA

"The three commercial space companies working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) may have very different spacecraft and rocket designs, but they all agreed on the need for the United States to have its own domestic capability to launch astronauts.

'Today, there are nine humans on orbit,' said Ed Mango, CCP's program manager, at a National Space Club meeting June 11 in Cape Canaveral, Florida 'All of those folks got there on a vehicle that did not have a U.S. flag on it. We, and the people in this room, and the people at this table, need to fix that.'"

Northrop Grumman, ATK Complete Backbone of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman Corporation and teammate ATK have completed manufacturing of the backplane support frame (BSF) for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman is under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the design and development of the Webb Telescope's optics, sunshield and spacecraft."

The Call of Mars, Buzz Aldrin Op-Ed, New York Times

"I am calling for a unified international effort to explore and utilize the Moon, a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon Apollo. Let me emphasize: A second "race to the Moon" is a dead end. America should chart a course of being the leader of this international activity to develop the Moon. The United States can help other nations do things that they want to do, a fruitful avenue for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy."

"A step in the right direction is creating an International Lunar Development Corporation, customized to draw upon the legacy of lessons learned from such endeavors as the International Geophysical Year (whose purpose was to get scientists all over the world to focus on the physics and atmosphere of the Earth), the International Space Station program, as well as model organizations such as Intelsat and the European Space Agency. Space collaboration should be the new norm, including the tapping of talented Chinese, Indian and other space experts from around the globe."

"In my view, U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. "

Marc's note: Buzz, I like it in a big picture kind of way. However, I see a few practical problems with your plan. 1) The economics of it. How are you going to sell this grand vision? And who's going to pay for it? We've got ventures trying to get to the moon now, but no ones got there yet and funding is very hard to come by. 2) Some in Congress won't like the idea of working with China, so how are you going to sell that. 3) What's the cost of implementing your Mars settlement plan? And who'se going to pay for it?

The public needs more than to be inspired by grand visions. They need to be sold on the economics of it and how it will benefit them. The Collins and Lampson op-ed below, "Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration", has part of the answer, but people need to be convinced that the investment for innovation will lead somewhere. They certainly don't want to pay for someone else to settle on Mars.

Beyond the Politics: Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration, Eileen M. Collins and Nick Lampson for the Huffington Post

"As a nation, we must put politics aside to ensure that expanding the space frontier occupies a prominent place on our national agenda. We need strategic, adequately funded and aggressively paced programs to keep America at the summits of technical innovation and exploration."

"... Unfortunately, we've begun to pull back, as though the nation can prosper without the kinds of strategic commitments that have historically assured us economic as well as intellectual return."

Marc's note: There's nothing new in what Collins and Lampson write. Will Congress pay attention? Will this appeal to the public and cause some action? Call me cynical, but I don't think Congress or the public are paying attention.

United Launch Alliance Completes Dual Engine Centaur Preliminary Design Review and Development Testing in Support of Commercial Crew Program, ULA

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and initial round of development testing for the Dual Engine Centaur in support of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Under Independent Research and Development (IRAD) funding, ULA is re-establishing the Dual Engine Centaur (DEC) configuration for performance and human space flight safety. Atlas V is capable of flying both a single and dual engine on the Centaur second stage, but most satellite missions require only a single engine due to the powerful capability of the Atlas V booster to loft the payload into orbit."

NASA's Orion Program First Fairing Separation Test Provides Data To Validate Design, NASA

"NASA is carrying out a series of tests to ensure the agency's Orion spacecraft can successfully jettison its protective fairings, or covers, during its ride to space. During the first of these tests, two of the three fairing panels separated as planned, but a third didn't."

NASA, Partner Collaborate on Key Piece of Orion Hardware, OnOrbit

"Technicians from Janicki Industries in Hamilton, Wash., work in collaboration with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to build part of the Space Launch System, NASA's next-generation launch vehicle."

"They are specifically working on a diaphragm for the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle Stage Adapter (MSA). Joint efforts between NASA and Janicki Industries enable engineers to verify proper functioning of this part of the SLS vehicle with the Orion spacecraft during its first mission -- Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) -- scheduled to launch in 2014."

Planetary Resources Needs YOUR Help to Hunt for Alien Planets, Planetary Resources

"Alien planets are out there and Planetary Resources needs your help to find them! That's right, the same high-powered telescope technology being used by Planetary Resources to identify near-Earth asteroids can also be used to hunt for what scientists call extrasolar planets or "exoplanets" - which are very much alien worlds. For the first-time ever, this capability will be placed directly into the hands of students, researchers and citizen scientists."

Marc's note: For the last few days the Planetary Resources Kickstarter campaign appears to have stalled.With 19 days to go they're $145K short of their goal. And with Kickstarter, it's all or nothing. You reach your goal, you get the funds, you don't, you get nothing. Now to encourage that next wave of donors Planetary Resources has sent out an email blast saying if we make it to $2 million we'll "enhance" ARKYD to hunt for Exoplanets.

With Kepler costing approximately around $600 million for its lifecyle, the ARKYD is quite a deal though they are clear to say they won't rival Kepler. They plan on adding "exoplanet transit detection capability by enhancing the telescope's stability systems and dedicating time to monitor candidate star systems." Among the many questions is how good a detector could ARKYD be. Also, how does hunting for Exoplanets fit into the companies mission statement? Sure it's E/PO, but is it just a gimmick to get over the initial E/PO funding goal?

Opinion: The Future Now

The Myopia Problem, Space News

"It is the year 3013, one thousand years into the future. Looking up into the night sky, you see a crescent Moon that is crisscrossed by a sparkling web of city lights. Millions of people are routinely working, living, and playing on the Moon. Billions live on Mars.

Many would agree that such a bright, promising future is probable. Some would contend that it is inevitable. What cannot be argued is that it is impossible, for we have already slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

The question is "when," rather than "if."

We don't need to wait a millennium in order to get started. Fundamental new breakthroughs in physics are not required. Just as the hang glider and sailplane could have been developed and refined hundreds or thousands of years ago, we already have the needed technology to begin pioneering exploration of the Moon and Mars."

NASA to Host June 7 Mars Rover Opportunity Teleconference, NASA

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) on Friday, June 7, to provide an update about the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The 10th anniversary of this rover's launch is next month.

The briefing participants will be:
-- John Callas, project manager for Opportunity, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
-- Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
-- Ray Arvidson, deputy principal investigator, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

Live Chat: Mission to Mars--With Special Guest Buzz Aldrin, Science

"Join us on Thursday, 6 June, at 3 p.m. EDT on this page for a live Google Hangout when we address these issues and take your questions. We'll be joined by three experts, including renowned astronaut Buzz Aldrin."

The other guests are Leonard David and James Garvin.

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Proves Sound Under Pressure, NASA

"After a month of being poked, prodded and pressurized in ways that mimicked the stresses of spaceflight, NASA's Orion crew module successfully passed its static loads tests on Wednesday.

When Orion launches on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), which is targeted for September 2014, it will travel farther from Earth than any spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years. The spacecraft will fly about 3,600 miles above Earth's surface and return at speeds of approximately 25,000 mph. During the test, Orion will experience an array of stresses, or loads, including launch and reentry, the vacuum of space, and several dynamic events that will jettison hardware away from the spacecraft and deploy parachutes."

Mercury 100% Coverage, NASA

"At the very end of 2012, MESSENGER obtained the final image needed to view 100% of Mercury's surface under daylight conditions. The mosaics shown here cover all of Mercury's surface and were produced by using the monochrome mosaic released by NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS) on March 8, 2013, as the base. The full resolution mosaics are available for download on MESSENGER's Global Mosaics webpage."

Related: SpaceRef Mercury news.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Nears Turning Point, NASA

"NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is approaching its biggest turning point since landing its rover, Curiosity, inside Mars' Gale Crater last summer.

Curiosity is finishing investigations in an area smaller than a football field where it has been working for six months, and it will soon shift to a distance-driving mode headed for an area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, at the base Mount Sharp."

Smooth Sailing: Dawn Spacecraft Passes Endurance Test, NASA

"The stalwart adventurer has recently completed its longest uninterrupted ion thrust period yet. As part of the campaign to conserve precious hydrazine propellant, Dawn now suspends thrusting once every four weeks to point its main antenna to Earth. (In contrast, spacecraft with conventional chemical propulsion spend the vast majority of time coasting.)"

NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Needs Input, NRC

"The National Research Council Committee on Human Spaceflight Needs is looking for input from communities interested in human exploration. The deadline for submissions is July 9."

"What are the important benefits provided to the United States and other countries by human spaceflight endeavors?

What are the greatest challenges to sustaining a U.S. government program in human spaceflight?

What are the ramifications and what would the nation and world lose if the United States terminated NASA's human spaceflight program?"

Mars Express 10 Years of Highlights (Video), ESA

"The journey of the European Space Agency's Mars Express, from drawing board through launch, to its key science highlights during ten years of operations.

With its suite of seven instruments, Mars Express has studied the subsurface of the Red Planet to the upper atmosphere and beyond to the two tiny moons Phobos and Deimos, providing an in depth analysis of the planet's history and returning stunning 3D images."

- Also released today: Mars Mineral Globe (video), ESA

Marc's note: Congratulations to ESA and its partners for 10 years of great science by Mars Express.

Mars is Hard

The private road to Mars, The Space Review

"Mars is hard.

That's the message that NASA and others in the space community have hammered into the public for years. It is, they argue, difficult enough to send a spacecraft to Mars, and even harder to land one there, a message clearly communicated by the "Seven Minutes of Terror" video released by NASA before the (successful) landing of the rover Curiosity last summer. Try to do the same with people--a task requiring larger spacecraft with life support systems, among other challenges--and the difficultly multiplies exponentially.

That extreme level of difficulty, and corresponding implied extreme expense, has led to the conclusion that only a government, or a coalition of governments, can send humans to Mars. It's also been a long-term goal: President George W. Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration featured human missions to Mars at an unspecified date after a 2020 return to the Moon, while President Barack Obama in 2010 called for a human mission to orbit Mars in the mid-2030s and a landing to follow presumably shortly thereafter."

"Where, Why and How?" - Concerns of the House Subcommittee on Space, Paul Spudis

"I found that there is confusion and even some anger on the Hill over President Obama's decision to abandon the Moon as the near-term goal of human spaceflight. Additionally, there is widespread puzzlement about the newly minted, asteroid retrieval concept - whether it will accomplish any scientific benefits, if it will prepare us for human missions beyond LEO, and what societal value it may or may not have. The question before the committee was how we might best move forward in space. As the discussion proceeded, it was patently clear that we desperately need a guiding vision with a strategic direction, one that constantly, incrementally and cost effectively creates and extends our space capabilities. It requires a plan with abundant milestones, intermediate in time and money, which will move humans beyond low Earth orbit."

Where Do We Go Next In Space?, Earlier post

NASA Asteroid Initiative Call for Ideas

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announces a public forum to provide a status on the agency's asteroid initiative planning and to encourage feedback and ideas from the global community and the public."

Target NEO 2 Workshop

"Explore and address the technical issues regarding the identification and characterization of a target required to support the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM).

NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG 9) Meeting

"As a consequence of new rules for NASA meeting support, the SBAG9 meeting will be held in Washington, DC, at a location TBD, on July 10-11, immediately following the Target NEO 2 Workshop."

Defending That Whole Go-to-Asteroid Thing, earlier post

NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot defends asteroid mission in Alabama visit, Huntsville Times

"NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot knows about the debate over where America should go next in space while it develops the technologies needed for a Mars landing. Should astronauts go back to the moon and build a base there, visit an asteroid, or simply go somewhere else in the space between Earth and the moon? On a visit to Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center to see Orion space capsule hardware in development, Lightfoot nodded when asked if he was familiar with the debate over destinations held during a congressional hearing Tuesday afternoon."

- Where Do We Go Next In Space?, earlier post
- NASA Asteroid Capture Mission: First Real Step in Utilizing Extraterrestrial Resources, earlier post


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