Exploration: May 2006 Archives

Belgium's Antarctic research station a global sustainability benchmark

"The International Polar Foundation (IPF) unveiled today the final plans for Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station, to be built during the International Polar Year 2007-08 (IPY). The station will enable Belgium, and other nations participating in its science program, to carry out important research on climate change and Antarctica's key role as part of the global climate system. This research will contribute to the massive international scientific effort scheduled for the IPY."

What's The Link Between Astronauts and Osteoporosis?, International Osteoporosis Foundation

"Though most people may not think of it, bedridden patients and astronauts share something in common: progressive bone loss. Immobile patients lose bone density because they don't exercise muscles that would otherwise build skeletal strength through motion. Astronauts also face long periods of immobility, in addition to zero gravity, which negatively affects bone cell function."

NASA's bed rest subjects have lot of time to blog, Knight Ridder

"On a Monday morning nothing sounds better than lying in bed just a little longer, but 12 weeks longer? The folks at Stardust Holiday (http://stardustholiday.blogspot.com) are chronicling their time as part of a NASA bed rest study. Participants (who, yes, are being compensated) are spending 84 days in the Cleveland Clinic in bed. As if that's not enough, they're lying at 6 degrees head down. Half of them are in a control group, with no exercise, and the other half gets some exercise."

Despite the importance of this research - and the personal sacrifices made by the people who volunteer three emonths of their life - NASA PAO simply ignores the topic - and the people involved. Now another volunteer is about to spend 90 days on his back. I guess if a NASA activity doesn't involve the CEV or overpriced lunar landers, PAO is uninterested.

Earthbound Astronaut Stands Up - And NASA Ignores Her (previous post)

NASA chooses MSFC for moon mission work, Huntsville Times

"We are gratified to be selected by NASA headquarters to lead this important program that paves the way back to the moon," MSFC Director Dave King said in a statement."

Editor's note: C'mon Dave. Be honest. You told Sen. Shelby that you needed/wanted to take RLEP away from ARC. Sen. Shelby then made it very clear to NASA HQ that he wanted this to happen. HQ did not have any choice. NASA HQ did not "select" MSFC for RLEP - they "selected" ARC - last year. Instead, HQ took this away from ARC. This is not exactly a secret, Dave.

Editor's note: The trick to getting new work at your center? Run up obscene increases on a simple project, and then get your congressional delegation (i.e. Sen. Shelby) to whine and moan when the money runs out and demand that things get moved - all the while convincing them that the only way to do things is big, heavy, and expensive. Of course, this also keeps the marching armies back home fat and happy. I really thought Mike Griffin was smarter than this - and that he was able to stand up to such political threats with the backing of the White House.

It should be quite clear by now that neither Mike Griffin or Scott Horowitz are actually in charge of managing NASA's implementation of the VSE. Right now, Sen. Shelby is in charge by virtue of the political actions he has taken (with Dave King's urgings). No doubt Sen. Mikulski will eventually take her turn when LRO encounters problems (with Ed Weiler's urgings). JSC and KSC will get in the act soon enough as well. Meanwhile, the White House turns a blind eye to this foodfight.

This ain't the way to get back to the moon, folks.

Message from NASA ESMD AA Scott Horowitz Outling Programmatic Changes

"A lunar projects office reporting to LPRP with responsibility for developing small spacecraft to support exploration will be located at the Ames Research Center (ARC), which led the former RLEP program. ARC will also continue to lead the development of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) scheduled to fly in 2008."

Editor's note: Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz has decided to pull the RLEP (Robotic Lunar Exploration Program) program office out of NASA ARC (where it was put less than a year ago) and is moving it to MSFC.

It seems that Sen. Shelby (R-AL) and MSFC Center Director Dave King complained loudly about a number of things and wanted to have the program moved to MSFC - the home of $1 billion+ lunar landers. Horowitz is apparently concerned about the initial cost estimates ($1.2 - 1.4 billion) for MSFC's RLEP-2 and has asked that the entire RLEP effort be "reconceived". Horowitz reportedly has asked for three classes of RLEP missions with cost caps at $100 million, $200 million, and $300 million respectively. Apparently there will be a new round of RLEP proposals requested soon.

Reader note: "Has anyone mentioned yet that literally just hours before RLEP was yanked from ARC, the RLEP Program Office had passed its Non-Advocate Review (NAR) with flying colors and without the requirement for a delta-NAR?? I wish someone would total the hours of labor expended to establish a great program at ARC that are now heading straight for the toilet - all the Program Office documentation, all the work on the architecture, all the networking and information gathering done, ... everything a total waste. No one in their right mind believes that MSFC will adopt any of this. This is a true waste of taxpayer money."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Lunar Lander Concept Studies

"The purpose of this Request For Information (RFI) is to widely release the study guidelines that NASA in-house teams are using so that contractors, academia, or any interested parties can perform parallel studies and/or use this information to make decisions on how to focus their internal efforts. NASA will review all submitted concepts and may incorporate all or part of any concept into their planning for future studies."

Back To The Future

Son of Apollo, Air & Space Magzine

"The Architecture calls for sending four astronauts at a time to the lunar surface, compared with Apollo's two. Instead of spending three days on the moon, they'll stay a week. And rather than being confined to a narrow band of landing sites around the lunar equator, they'll be able to land anywhere, even the poles, where scientists believe ice in the soil could be converted to fuel and drinking water."

Bigger Prop Tank Was Key To NASA's RS-68 Decision, Aviation Now

"NASA opted for the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-68 engine to power its next-generation moon rocket in part because the factory that built the Saturn V can still handle the 33-foot diameter tankage that went into it."

NASA Alters Its Course To The Moon. Again. Is the Program Heading For Trouble?, Tom Jones, Popular Mechainics blog

"The downside of the RS-68 decision is that the Cargo Launch Vehicle's core fuel tanks must grow from a planned width of 27.5 feet to 33 feet (as wide as the old Saturn V's first stage). That's because the RS-68, although more powerful than the SSME (650,000 lbs. of thrust vs. 420,000) is a heavier, less efficient engine, requiring more fuel to lift the same amount of payload to orbit. The larger stage diameter will prevent NASA from using its existing external tank production line at Michoud, LA for the new rocket; instead it will have to invest in new production tooling at the same site. Those "shuttle heritage" savings are dwindling fast."

Engine may be moon-trip choice, Huntsville Times

"When the plan to return to the moon was announced, Cowing said, "people inside and outside of NASA thought that it would just take shuttle hardware and create the rockets needed to go to the International Space Station and on to the moon. "That doesn't seem to be the case. We are seeing a slow drift away from shuttle-derived hardware, and now there's probably going to be a mix of shuttle hardware and" expendable rockets, Cowing said." ... "To Cowing, NASA is "in reality just creating two brand-new rockets - one for crew and one for cargo. In the end, there will probably be little of today's shuttle" used in the rockets."

GAO: NASA's Ability to Meet Future Deep Space Communications Demand Is at Risk, House Science Democrats

NASA's Deep Space Network: Current Management Structure Is Not Conducive to Effectively Matching Resources with Future Requirements, GAO

"While NASA's Deep Space Network can meet most requirements of its current workload, it may not be able to meet near-term and future demand. The systemsuffering from an aging, fragile infrastructure with some crucial components over 40 years oldhas lost science data during routine operations and critical events. In addition, new customers find they must compete for this limited capacity, not just with each other, but also with legacy missions extended past their lifetimes, such as NASA's Voyager, that nonetheless return valuable science. Program officials doubt they can provide adequate coverage to an increasing set of new mission customers, especially if they increase dramatically under the President's Vision."

Engine may be moon-trip choice, Huntsville Times

"When the plan to return to the moon was announced, Cowing said, "people inside and outside of NASA thought that it would just take shuttle hardware and create the rockets needed to go to the International Space Station and on to the moon. "That doesn't seem to be the case. We are seeing a slow drift away from shuttle-derived hardware, and now there's probably going to be a mix of shuttle hardware and" expendable rockets, Cowing said." ... "To Cowing, NASA is "in reality just creating two brand-new rockets - one for crew and one for cargo. In the end, there will probably be little of today's shuttle" used in the rockets."

Editor's note: To follow up my earlier post "Does NASA GRC Have a Stealth Lunar Rover Project?" I asked the following specific questions of NASA PAO. This is what they sent back.

CaLV Engine Update

NASA Exploration Systems Progress Report 18 May 2006

"NASA has chosen the RS-68 engine to power the core stage of the agency's heavy lift cargo launch vehicle intended to carry large payloads to the moon.

The announcement supersedes NASA's initial decision to use a derivative of the space shuttle main engine as the core stage engine for the heavy lift launch vehicle."

CaLV Engine Changes (earlier post)

NASA Set To Launch Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008

"After a 30-year hiatus, the orbiter represents NASA's first step towards returning humans to the moon."

Editor's note: "30-year hiatus"? Looks like someone at PAO forgot about NASA's Lunar Prospector which was launched in 1998. Of course there was the non-NASA (NRL) Clementine mission launched in 1994. Both served as pathfinders for LRO.

Greenhouse Webcam 2 Editor's note: The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse woke up several weeks ago. Located at the Mars Institute's HMP Research Station on Devon Island, this greenhouse has several webcams located inside which are now sending back images on a more or less daily basis. Webcam 2 looks south at the growing trays. Webcam 3 looks north at the heating system. Note: ignore the date stamp on these webcam images - apparently both cameras lost track of time during the several months of darkness when they were inactive.

During fall 2005 there was some unusual activity in and around the greenhouse and the report listed below describes what is known to date. Another update to this report will follow soon.

- 2005 Preliminary Fall Report (PDF)
- Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Update, July 20, 2005
- Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG): Frequently Asked Questions

Sleeping on the Job - The life and times of a human guinea pig, Seed Magazine

"The 21-year-old former cashier and bank temp is part of NASA's "bedrest study" - her only duty for the last three months has been to lay horizontal so that her feet never fall below her head. By lying in this position and not supporting her own weight, Erin Peterson's body has experienced similar symptoms to what a body undergoes while weightless."

post bedrest day 2, Erin Peterson

"yes! i'm still alive! standing up hurts like a bitch, but i love being semi-independent again. sorry for the short post, i just wanted to let everyone know that i'm doing well and i'll be back to blogging. i'm waiting for the hotel car right now to take me over for a full day of strength testing, MRIs and the works. but i'm doing alright, and i've got about 50 million pictures coming soon.

i made it!"

gone to earth, Erin Peterson

"CNN called, they saw your blog through NASAwatch, and they want to interview you." jaw, meet floor. "i passed them on to natalie [in media relations] and you should be hearing from her soon."

Editor's note: A young woman takes 3 months out of her life to live in a hospital - lying down and hung from cables - to help NASA understand the risks astronauts will encounter during long term space missions. NASA PAO's response? Nothing. Yet she appeared - live - on CNN. How? NASA Watch - Not NASA PAO - the way it should have happened. Then, the NEEMO Crew sends greetings and a photo to Erin from their underwater habitat. How? NASA Watch again.

At a time when NASA seeks new ways to engage the public as to the value of space exploration and train the next generation of space explorers, to ignore the efforts of role models such as Erin Peterson borders on total incompetence. NASA Watch should not have to be doing NASA PAO's job.

- Bedrest Study Participant on CNN
- Earthbound Astronaut Ends Her Mission
- NASA NEEMO-9 Crew Sends Greeting To NASA Bedrest Study Participant

NASA GRC Solicitation: Radiation Tolerant Single Board Computer

"This is a modification to the synopsis entitled RADIATION TOLERANT SINGLE BOARD COMPUTER, NNC06156539Q which was posted on 05/10/2006. You are notified that the following change is made to add the specifications as follows: Single Board Computer for the Highlander Lunar Rover Mission Development."

Editor's note: "Highlander Lunar Rover Mission"? What's that?

Editor's update: This project was submitted as a proposed secondary payload for LRO - but was not selected. My question is: if the mission was not chosen, then why are people still working on it - i.e. why are procurement notices being issued to buy hardware?

BUT if GRC is keeping this project alive (as some readers have suggested) to serve as a way to train young researchers - then this puts the whole thing in a different light. NASA has dropped the ball in recent years - most notably with the FY 2007 budget proposal - when it comes to training and education. Using a proposed project that was not selected to fly - but still has potential as a educational program - has clear merit. If this is the case, then GRC ought to be open about what it is trying to do - otherwise it looks like they can't take "No" for an answer when their project was not selected.

NASA NEO Workshop

NASA Workshop: Near-Earth Object Detection, Characterization, and Threat Mitigation - Call For Papers

"NASA is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for a workshop on Near-Earth Object (NEO) Detection, Characterization and Threat Mitigation to be held at a site to be announced. This workshop is being held in support of NASA's Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation (PA&E) study in response to congressional direction."

NASA Glenn lands major role in moon mission, AP

Glenn wins big space project - Money, many jobs expected to follow, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"NASA Glenn Research Center got liftoff Friday, winning vital, lucrative space work worth, over the project's life, at least $2 billion and possibly hundreds of jobs. Glenn staff will manage the work on a major element of the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the rocket replacing the space shuttle, which NASA officials want in space by 2012. A formal agreement that spells out the center's role on the service module of the Crew Exploration Vehicle was signed recently by NASA officials in Washington, at Glenn and at the main project office within Johnson Space Center in Houston."

CaLV Engine Changes

Modification to a Previous NASA Notice: Cargo Launch Vehicle Core Stage Engine

"This is a modification to the synopsis entitled "CARGO LAUNCH VEHICLE CORE STAGE ENGINE", which was posted on February 23, 2006. You are notified that the following changes are made: The requirement is hereby cancelled."

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Cargo Vehicle Core Stage Engine (original notice):

"NASA/MSFC has baselined the use of a lower cost version of the Space Shuttle Main Engine as the Core Stage Engine (CSE) for the proposed Cargo Launch Vehicle (CaLV). At this time, special studies are needed to evaluate and assess the processes and requirements necessary to develop and certify the CSE for the CaLV. The Core Stage Engine will be a highly affordable, expendable engine derived from the current Space Shuttle Main Engine (RS-25)."

- Burt Rutan: "I hope to go the Moon in my lifetime"
- Space Adventures - the Seven Summits of Space
- Alpine style in science, Solar panels in space, Google maps and the Japanese man
- Gold, War and a huge Ego will take us there

"When we climb, row an ocean or ski to one of earth's poles on the cheap, weight becomes extremely important to us. Going alpine style or unsupported is a big difference to having planes browsing by with resupplies or an army of Sherpas fixing routes and camps. All of a sudden - strong and determined is not enough. We must also become smart and inventive and that's when it becomes complicated. Sure we can make a run for it in good weather and keep our fingers crossed - but that is boldness over intelligence and can result in early death. To keep succeeding and surviving on the cheap in the long run, we must come up with ways to continuously make it on a fraction of gear and supplies. The same goes for rockets and satellites."

University of North Dakota Tests NASA Funded Experimental Planetary Space Suit

"The multilayered North Dakota Experimental Planetary Space Suit, or NDEPSS, is entirely and meticulously hand-crafted by students with a variety of skills, including a team at the ND State College of Science that machined to exacting tolerances the rings that join various parts of the suit together. The NDEPSS project was funded last year by a $100,000 NASA Aerospace Workforce Development grant following a proposal that was identified by NASA officials as one of the top three of the 52 submitted."

UND Spacesuit Website
UND Spacesuit Blog

[Former] Acting Director Christensen Upbeat About NASA Ames Research Center's Future, ARC Astrogram

"Christensen laid out a strategy for Ames' recovery and future strength that includes developing a 'skunk works' to build satellites, attracting more work packages, winning more competitive proposals, and restoring our reputation for project management and job completion. With regard to the skunk works concept, Christensen said Ames will construct a 'satellite center' in building N240 to develop small satellites that cost less than $250 million. He reported that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin not only expressed approval of the skunk works concept, but also opened the door to the prospect of Ames taking on even larger projects."

NASA Ames Appoints Marvin "Chris" Christensen As New Deputy Director

"Chris has provided experienced leadership as acting program manager of the Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP) since coming to Ames in September 2005," said Worden. "In that role, he has been instrumental in regaining a true mission management role for the center and in kicking off our efforts in the area of small satellites, which I think will be key to our future."

NASA Agrees to Cooperate With India on Lunar Mission

"NASA will have two scientific instruments on India's maiden voyage to the moon. Tuesday, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and his counterpart, Indian Space Research Organization Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, signed two Memoranda of Understanding in Bangalore, India, for cooperation on India's Chandrayaan-1 mission."

NEEMO Update

In undersea habitat, aquanauts learn about teamwork and task performance for the moon and Mars

"Between daily living, telemedicine activities and moon-walking simulations, participants in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 9 project helped National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) researchers study performance ability, problem-solving and team cohesion issues that could affect long-duration space flights."

NASA Announces Lunar Lander Analog Competition Agreement

"NASA's Deputy Administrator Shana Dale announced Friday the agency's Centennial Challenges program has signed an agreement with the X PRIZE Foundation to conduct the $2 million Lunar Lander Analog Challenge. Dale made the announcement at the International Space Development conference in Los Angeles. The challenge will take place at the X PRIZE Cup Expo in Las Cruces, N. M., Oct. 20-22."

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: Erin Peterson is certainly doing her part for the VSE! I certainly hope that all NASA Watch readers visit Erin's Blog to say hello.

Editor's update: Erin was featured in a live segment this morning on CNN and is expected to appear on CNN again before her participation ends. At the opening of today's sessions at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, this image was shown and Erin received a hearty round of applause for her dedication.

Editor's update: To watch Erin's CNN interview, go to this page at CNN, look at the "Watch Free Video" section and click on "Lying down on the job, literally"

Rutan: NASA's crew exploration vehicle doesn't make sense, AP

"Maverick aerospace designer Burt Rutan on Thursday criticized NASA's decision to use an Apollo-style capsule to return to the moon, saying it "doesn't make any sense" to build a new generation of space vehicles using old technology."

Reader note: "It makes even less sense to employ new, unproven technologies that nearly crash and burn during sub-orbital publicity stunt flights. Talk is cheap. Crew-rated robust performance is not."

Reader note: "Must be nice to be able to throw stones without having to actually come up with a solution."

Send In Your Ideas

NASA Solicitation: Seeking Offers to Engage Americans Through Educational Programs for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"For nearly 50 years, NASA's journeys into air and space have deepened humankind's understanding of the universe, advanced technology breakthroughs, enhanced air travel safety and security, and expanded the frontiers of scientific research. These accomplishments share a common genesis: education. NASA will continue the Agency's tradition of strengthening the Nation's education programs and supporting the country's educators who play a key role in preparing, inspiring, exciting, encouraging, and nurturing the young minds of today who will manage and lead the Nation's laboratories and research centers of tomorrow."

Some Thoughts Regarding Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger's Speech on Space Exploration and Utilization

"Recently Dr. John Marburger, head of the Office of Science and Technology gave the keynote address at the 44th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greenbelt, Md. To me, as a long time space advocate, this speech is the most important statement on the development of the space frontier from the government since John F. Kennedy's fateful endorsement of the Apollo program."

Europeans psych themselves up for a trip to Mars, Astrobiology Magazine

"Guillaume Dargaud is an engineer who participated in the first winter-over at Concordia in 2004. In his own words, he experienced "one year away from friends and family, four months of total darkness, minus 79C [minus 110F] winter temperature and ten months of total isolation." He didn't find the isolation particularly difficult to deal with, but said "it depends on the people. One needs to be solitary without being antisocial. The people who break down early are not necessarily those without anything to do, they are those who don't know how to fill their time." Asked if he thought he could survive a long-duration space mission after surviving Antarctica, his simple answer was, "Where do I sign up?"

2nd Winterover at Concordia Station (2006) blog by Eric Aristidi, LUAN (Laboratoire Universitaire d'Astrophysique de Nice)

17 - 23 Avril: "During this time, I sleep heavily. Bedtime for me is around 4 am and I wake up just before noon. I then vaguely come downstairs to the coffee machine. People I cross tempt to communicate with me : the answer is generally a happy smile with some inquiring grunt. Speaking facility has not rebooted at this early time."




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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from May 2006.

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